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

The Resurrection: Chapter 15 – Revelation

**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 stared at him, her mind working in its usual quick way, leaping ahead four or five steps in logical conversation as she asked, “You think Neville is actually on our side?”

Chase adjusted to the seemingly abrupt change of subject but he also realized that everything was interconnected and that Julie appreciated that as much as he did. “I think he’s honest and really wants to help. It hurts nothing to get to know him better, meet his wife and have dinner with them.”

“When does he want to do this?”

“Soon, maybe on the weekend. He needs to discuss it with his wife.”

“So, it was something you two came up with on the fly?”

“Yeah, I guess it was. It started with him saying that he wanted to save Paul in whatever way that he can. He doesn’t see the need to execute him, which is where the process appears to be heading rapidly. The Colonial Authority does not want that either, but Paul’s killed people.”

“If Paul is anything like the rest of us, he has his own personal set of rules that he obeys.”

“Exactly and if he killed that many agents they must have given him more than enough cause.”

“Tell Neville okay to the invitation. I’ll have to check my schedule if it is before next weekend.”

“I think he was hinting about Friday.”

“I think I could do that,” Julie said. “My supervisor is out of town from Wednesday on and his boss always leaves early on Friday.”

“Which means you might really get off of work on time.”

“Yeah,” Julie said. “Sometimes I hate being on salary.”

Chase laughed, “Me too,” he said as he had reached the curb in front of Julie’s apartment. “But then, the bonus check comes in along with the stock options and, all of a sudden, those seventy-hour work weeks seem to have been compensated.”

“Do you want to come up?”

“Uh, well…yeah,” Chase said, as he opened the passenger door and Julie stepped out of the coach. Then Chase exited and using the remote docked his coach in the visitor’s rack. Returning the remote to his pocket, he followed Julie into the familiar lobby of the place that, until recently, was also his residence.

They rode the elevator up to her floor and entered her apartment where she immediately went to the bathroom while Chase sat down in the living room and checked out what was going on via the world viewer array of screens.

As Julie emerged from the bathroom the phone chimed and Chase reached for the remote and clicked answer.

“Julie, Yates here,” the image of the speaker dominated the main screen.”

“What’s up?”

“Oh, hi there Chase.”

“Hello,” Chase responded feeling it was pretentious of Yates to feign that he was surprised. “Julie and I have been together for most of the day, as you well know.”

“Well, yes. But I knew you were having some issues and had separated for a bit. I’m pleasantly surprised to see you.”

“I can leave if you want to tell Julie something in complete confidence.”

“No, I’m fine with you knowing everything, as long as Julie doesn’t mind.”

“I don’t even know what it is you’re going to say so how would I know whether to mind at all?”

“It is about your uncle, Carl,” Yates said to her.

“What about him?”

“He passed away earlier today, in Star City,” Yates said.

Julie sat on the couch, silently adjusting to the new reality as she drew a deep breath. She had not been that close to her uncle until after her father died. He was her next of kin. He transferred to Andromeda to live for a few years just so she would not have to be dislocated from her school and all of her friends. At the time she did not realize what a sacrifice that was, but now she did. She respected him after the fact even if she grave him more problems than he deserved while he was her legal guardian.

Her Aunt Lydia divorced Carl a year and a half before he came live with Julie in Andromeda. Lydia had taken nearly everything Carl had, but he had not really protested it. In fact, he saw coming to Andromeda as a chance at a new life. He remained in Andromeda for a year and a half after Julie graduated and started attending college. Then, he was offered something in Star City and he went to take advantage of it. There had been a meeting with him, a lunch at her college. They said goodbye. It felt awkward to Julie, really. It was like Carl was trying to be her father for that one brief moment but he did not quite know how.

“I knew it would be hard for you,” Yates said, his words breaking the silence of her reflection.

“Thank you for the information,” Julie said. “He was a good man.”

“No problem,” Yates said. “I’ll send you the information to your global network account.”

“Thank you,” she said in response.

“There’s it’s sent,” Yates said. “I have another call coming in. Take care.”

The call disconnected.

“You were close?” Chased asked.

“For the last five years of my adolescence he was my surrogate father.”

“We should go to his funeral, then.”

Julie looked away. “There are some other issues, some of them feelings I don’t enjoy revisiting.”

“You didn’t like him?”

“I loved him in my own way,” Julie admitted, the wiped a tear from her eye. “He was an amazing man. There was a time I was being picked-on at school. You know, when you don’t want to be in physical education class because you have to take showers with everyone else.”

“I remember the trauma well.”

“It wasn’t so bad when I was little, but by the time I was in high school and my boobs began growing – all four of them…”

“Yeah four nipples and four balls are a little more discreet.”

She nodded.

“Anyway, he took me out to dinner. We dressed up and he made me feel important, like the differences I had were a good thing. He was the first man other than my father who understood what it felt like.”

“He had the attributes too?”

“Maybe he had them inside, you know?” She paused for several moments, and then drew a deep breath. “There was one night, not too long after that. He’d been out celebrating some contract his company won. He was drunk when he got home. He came into the living room of our apartment and sat down beside me and we watched something together on the entertainment channel. He had his arm around my shoulders the entire time and, for whatever reason, it made me feel secure. Then after the program ended he got up and said he needed to go to bed. But it was like I didn’t want him to leave me lone. I stayed up and watched another show before bed. Then, as I was getting up, I thought of all the pain and suffering Carl endured. He told me about Lydia and how he still loved her. He never cheated on her but she did on him. And somehow he forgave her even though she put him through it with the divorce. I wanted to help him. I wanted him to feel like he was loved. I went into his room and…,” her voice cracked. “I entered his dream. He called my Lydia. I was okay with it because it was his fantasy and yet it was weird. Then after he passed out again I went to my room. In the morning he did not remember anything, other than he had a dream.”

“But it was real for you.”

She nodded.

“That was your first time?”

“Yep. The first time for both the sex and using a gift I knew I had. I know it’s pretty sick, but I was fourteen at the time. Confused and my hormones were on overtime.”

“I understand.”

“At the time it felt right and I thought I was helping him – and maybe it helped me a little too. He lost his brother, my father. Despite his wanting to leave his past anyway he had come to Andromeda to take care of me. I wanted to know what life was about. And I found out.”

“Did he never know?”

“I missed my period that month and the next month. I went to the clinic. I was so embarrassed. They had me there on the examining table, my feet up in the stirrups. It was the first time I had ever been to that kind of doctor. I was terrified and I felt violated, especially when they began to tell me that I possessed the attributes – like I didn’t already know how different I was. They made it sound like I was defective. They ran all sorts of tests and concluded that I was pregnant.”

“Wow!”

“I told them I couldn’t be – knowing how and when it happened, but I meant it couldn’t be allowed, you know? They showed me the proof and had me sign some forms. With women who have the attributes, there’s no required notification or consent with a minor getting an abortion.”

“Because women usually die after giving birth.”

“Yeah. The Colonial Authority never publicizes that, but the procedure isn’t free. I paid them, charged to my uncle’s payment wand account that as a minor I was linked to. I was so frightened and alone in my decision and I was too embarrassed to seek anyone’s advice. I felt horrible for days after that. I had nightmares. I kept thinking about what the child might have been. Then the receipt for the services came from the doctor and my uncle confronted me with it. I told him everything. I could tell it bothered him deeply and he even got up and walked away from me at one point, but then he returned and he opened his arms and held me close, telling me he was sorry and that nothing like that would never happen again.”

Chase looked into her eyes. “Did he live up to that?”

“Chase,” she said then cleared her throat. “Three days after that he tried to kill himself but failed. I was in the hospital with him for 36 hours. He almost succeeded. I took naps in a chair beside his bed. When he came around he was angry with me that I did not let him die. He didn’t want to live with the shame that we made love even if he thought at the time it was a dream and I was Lydia. I told him that it had been my choice not his and that in his drunken state I took advantage of him. I raped him, really. It was all my fault and I respected him as my uncle and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him.”

“I guess you need to attend his funeral,” Chase said.

“Yeah, I need to be there,” Julie said. “I would like for you to be there with me.”

Chase nodded. “I can make it happen,” he said.

“I would appreciate it,” Julie said as she leaned over and kissed him. “It seems we both have some darkness in our pasts.”

“We would not be human otherwise.”

“Are we human?”

“We’re human enough,” Chase said.

Julie leaned into him where they sat together on the couch. She kissed him and he responded in kind. Before long, and definitely before the end of the show that was on world viewer that they had been ignoring, Chase scooped her up into his arms and carried her to bed. He did everything he could to make her forget, for a while. They spent the night together.

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.

 

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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 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 8 – Vigil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have been thinking this through.”

“I was bored last night.”

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

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

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

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

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

“We are fugitives because of him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Won’t they?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who are they?”

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

“Then, it’s not safe for us here.”

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

“That would be good.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are we going?”

“For a walk.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t think so,” Cristina said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know,” Cristina said.

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

“What do you have in mind?”

“Everything,” Alix said.

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

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

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The Resurrection: Chapter 7 – Reconciliation

**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 sat at her desk, buried in enough paperwork to last a week, but it was usual for her job.

As always, she accomplished next to nothing that was on her personal agenda, not even the critical requirements from the corporate office. There were always crises to manage and figurative fires to extinguish. All of it was the direct result of gross incompetence at some level or another, and very often someone at a higher pay scale than she earned was at fault.

Fixing the mistakes of others, continuously, she made everything function and everyone above her pay grade looked good to their superiors. Appreciated by coworkers but unappreciated with advancements and raises in salary, mostly it was her sense of mission that drove her. Not only did she want to do a good job, but also she needed to go home with satisfaction that she’d improved things for others winning the battle for another day. Lately, others thwarted her attempts, frustrating her until the job seemed drudgery instead of challenge.

Good at what she did, very good, others depended on her personal sacrifice of her time and devotion to the task at hand. Mostly, the job left her lacking energy, any pride  in accomplishment or feeling that things would improve. Her supervisors benefited directly for what she did while they did little or nothing, rarely even patting her on the back. They expected her to wear herself out on their behalf at and her expense.

Despite her overall dissatisfaction with work, she continued working for her company because she needed the meager compensation to pay bills. She earned enough that she did not suffer. She could go out to eat when she felt like it, take in a show every once in a while and go out dancing and club-hopping on weekends with her girlfriends. Her life was not that bad except that she dreaded going to work and having to deal with one crisis after another when everything she fixed her immediate supervisor took the credit for and everything that went wrong was never their blame.

It had been a couple of days since Chase shared macaroni and cheese with her and took the rest of his things with him. She must have been thorough in her cleanup effort. She had found nothing since that night that belonged to him. She had looked in the hopes of having another good excuse to call him. He had not called her even once saying he was missing anything. Apparently he did not miss her, either.

She dared not call him without cause. Although many times a day she thought about him, she had her pride. Being separated just felt wrong to her, very wrong for them. Yet she did not think she had done anything wrong. She fully understood Chase’s point of view but what she did she would do again to protect him. Why was he so stubborn that he refused to see that?

Chase was still looking for an apartment. That was what she assumed. She figured he would at least call her to tell her where he lived. They parted friends – as much as that is possible for lovers when a relationship tears apart – so she expected at least that much consideration from him to know where he lived and how he was doing.

At her behest, Kim call Chase’s temporary roommate – the guy he knew from work – and say she saw him in a club and got his work number from a friend, playing the ‘I want to get to know you better’ routine. He begged off on a date until later in the week, saying he had a houseguest and hopefully he would be out of the apartment before the weekend. So, Kim learned what Julie wanted to know.

When Julie got off from work and entered the garage where her coach was docked, there were three men in suits leaning against it. Their suits were the sorts that agents wear, not uniforms but certainly not fine business attire either. She really did not want to deal with any more questions. Long since, she had already told Yates everything she knew.

“I suppose Yates sent you to collect me,” she said as she approached her coach and the three men.

“He said there would be no problem.”

“Then why send three of you?”

“He felt that one would be a threat, two would be intimidating but three would sort of set you at ease, that we’re legitimate and not going to harm you.”

“In a weird sort of way I guess that makes some sense. I do feel more at ease.”

“We can take you in our coach or you can follow us if you like.”

“I think I’ll follow you. It will save me time getting home afterwards.”

They leaned forward and off her coach and allowed her to undock it and as they climbed into their coach, she got into hers. She knew where she was going but even so she followed them, not passing them.

When she arrived, much to her surprise, Yates was waiting outside the building and he knocked on the passenger side window. She opened the door and he climbed inside. “Let’s go for a drive,” he said.

“I hope you’re happy. Chase and I are separated now.”

“I heard. Certainly, I’m not happy about it at all. That was never my intention for any of this to come between the two of you.”

“How could it not? I only wanted to save him from any pain or grief but he feels I betrayed his friends, my friends as well. They did nothing wrong. That’s the whole point. Really they did nothing wrong.”

“Except they fled the authorities which rapidly elevated them in status to suspects.”

“They’re not dangerous.”

“There is some debate about that. You see several agents were inured in the attempts to detain and then later re-arrest them. Now, they have completely disappeared,” Yates revealed. “There’s no trace of them, still. I don’t know how they did it. I didn’t think it could be done. We’ve alerted Star City, their apparent destination, but they’ve never arrived there. They have been watching security scans from the stations frame by frame looking for them. I’m at a complete loss to explain it. Perhaps, you have some thoughts?”

“If you can’t find them, what chance would I have?”

“You know them.”

Julie pursed a smile. “My life’s a shambles. My former fiancée hates me. When my friends learn what I’ve done they’ll likely hate me as well, because everyone thought Chase and I were a perfect couple – and we were. Because I know them, you think I might know where they’re hiding. I haven’t got a clue. Cristina’s smart, very smart. Alix is resourceful in ways you’d never imagine. If they’ve been undetectable for even a day it’s remarkable considering all the technology at your disposal to keep track of people. But it doesn’t surprise me. If anyone could completely disappear it would be them.”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but you’ll either find out or figure it out, eventually. They’ve been under scrutiny and some level of surveillance for all of their lives.”

“Really?” Julie asked. “And Chase as well…and me?”

“There are Twenty-Four of you.”

“Twenty-Four?”

“Twelve sets of twins. Whether you realize it or not, each of you was born one of a set of twins.”

“I’m sure that’s significant somehow.”

“Well, it is. The significance was lost on me until this morning. I received a visit from the Director of Research at The Hosting Institute, a sort of live-in facility for twelve highly remarkable women who’ve been monitored for over two decades now,” Yates said.

“Okay?”

“The Institute is here in Andromeda. I wasn’t even aware of its purpose until this morning. I’d heard of it in passing and knew its mission was a highly guarded secret. There’s been some speculation that they were conducting research into human fertility but what did I know?”

“I’m waiting to find out what any of this has to do with me.”

“You are one of The Twenty-Four. That’s how they refer to you in official circles. You were borne of one of The Twelve who live in The Institute.”

“I’m confused.”

“Your mother lives at the Institute, Julie. Everyone else who’s one of The Twelve does.”

Julie pulled her coach over to the curb and temporarily parked it. “My mother’s dead. I have visited her grave many times.”

“That was a cover – for a purpose,” Yates said. “Your father knew. He agreed with the objectives and he lived with the consequences.”

“You knew?”

“I never knew all the details. Certainly, nothing about the women in the facility but, yes, I suppose I knew enough. I spoke to your father. I met a number of the other husbands as well. They were amazing men in an equally extraordinary way. They had yielded their wives’ lives already, expecting them to die. Yet, when the women lived, they allowed them to participate in the research program in the interest of all humanity. Each and every one of them was a very remarkable man. In every case, they were the ones who passed on prematurely. It’s not a coincidence, but it is another part of the mystery no one understands.”

“So, you’re saying my mother’s alive?”

“Of course she is, as is Chase’s mother, Alix’s mother, Cristina and Paul’s mother and Pete’s.”

“Pete?”

“He is the drummer in Cristina’s band.”

“I see. And suddenly, it’s okay for this to be public knowledge.”

“It’s not public knowledge. It’s being shared with me to share with you because the Colonial Authority wants to clear up a few things, and maybe by this gesture, you’ll understand they really are on your side.”

“I want to see her.”

“Of course, I’ve made the arrangements. Apparently, Cristina and Paul’s mother is in Star City. She’s seeing Paul.”

“Trying to persuade him away from the course he’s chosen.”

“I suppose it’s something like that,” Yates said, “Here’s the address. You can program it into the controller.”

As she complied her coach merged with traffic and accelerated toward the selected destination. When it arrived, both Julie and Yates exited. They were in the most remote section of the city Julie had ever been, close to the edge of the dome – beyond the circle or the ‘loop’, as it was called. They entered the building and posted at the reception desk. Yates asked for someone named Neville.

Presently a lanky gentleman, middle aged and strikingly handsome emerged through a security door. “I’m Neville.”

“I’m Yates. This is Julie. She’s one of The Twenty-Four.”

Neville frowned. “It’s highly irregular, despite the interim change in what the Colonial Authority desires.”

“These are strange times,” Yates said.

“They are, indeed. Come, I guess my present role is to introduce Julie to her mother.”

“She’s really here?” Julie held back her tears with a wall of doubt, but the sudden, immediate prospect of meeting her mother after all these years broke through any emotional barriers she might have erected. Tears trailed down her cheeks and dripped to the front of her blouse as she followed Yates and Neville down a hallway.

“Except for the testing and the continuous observation, The Twelve have led normal lives – as normal as could be permitted under the circumstances. The Colonial Authority has made a point to ensure they were treated well. They’re comfortable and never want for anything.”

“They never wanted to see us?” Julie asked.

“The stay informed as to what their children are doing. They were permitted to view surveillance when you were young. Since you’ve become adult, the monitoring was changed to weekly summaries they may access. It has frankly amazed us that two pairs of you have already found one another and have a relationship.”

“Had a relationship, in my case, anyway,” Julie corrected.

“A bump in the road,” Neville said. “We have learned through our research that, in the long run, you really don’t have much choice about your eventual mating. Whenever you meet someone who is completely compatible it may as well be carved in stone that you’ll mate.”

“And if he’s attracted to another of The Twenty-Four, as you call us?”

“Quite naturally, you all will have some regard and feelings for one another. It’s instinctual and inevitable. There may be close friendships that develop but only one will ever be compatible as a mate. It’s something quite apart from what we see in the broader population of even those with the attributes let alone humans. There’s apparently a hereditary one-to-one correspondence within The Twenty-Four, twelve pairings that can be no other way, selected by your odd natures. It’s as if it is designed and programmed into your DNA.”

“I’m not sure I like that.”

“It is what it is,” Neville said. “Here we are,” he said as he arrived at a door and knocked.

“Come in,” came the call from within.

Julie was apprehensive, even shy to venture into the room but Neville led the way. “Sylvia?”

“Neville, what a wonderful surprise. How are you? It’s been a few days.”

“Yes, it has and we now have some visitors.”

“And me looking like I just woke up,” Sylvia complained.

“You always look the same, a goddess can appear as nothing less.”

“You’re too kind – always the charmer.”

“I speak only the truth,” Yates said. “Regardless of the situation, I knew you’d want to meet your guests.”

“When they told me I doubted it was the truth – so much security for all these years.”

“How’ve you been?” Julie asked. “It’s wonderful to learn that you are alive, if it is really you.”

“Who else would I be? I guess, because I sort of work for the Colonial Authority, it should not surprise me that they told you. They had to eventually, I guess. But it took so long. Almost no one else knows.”

“I know,” Julie said.

“Oh, my,” Sylvia said even as she focused on her and a tear dripped down her cheeks. “You are just as beautiful as everyone says – more so in person than on the viewers. That’s no way to see my children! Come hug your mother, honey.”

Julie buried her face into her mother’s shoulder. “They told me you died, just like all the others.”

“Well, there are twelve of us who didn’t die and they still don’t know why,” Sylvia said. “What’s important is I’m here and now you know.”

“They tell me I have a brother.”

“Randall,” Sylvia said. “He lives in New London. He’s a criminal defense attorney.”

“Really?” Julie asked.

“Very handsome and very eligible, in case you know anyone who’s looking,” Sylvia said, with a chuckle. “Come sit down here on the bed and we can talk. I’m sure Neville can entertain Mr. Yates for a bit.”

“Yeah, we can discuss a few things,” Neville confirmed as he ushered Yates toward the door and once they were into the hallway he closed the door behind them, leaving Julie and her mother alone.

“It’s amazing, finding you here.”

“This is like a dream for me as well. I mean, I’ve known everything about you. They’ve been really good about that, telling all of us about our children. But it’s not the same as being there, picking you up when you fall down and skin a knee.”

“Father told me everything about you.”

“He had to. I told him he needed to do that.”

“He knew you were here.”

“He also knew that you couldn’t know. That tore him up inside, but he also understood and accepted it. I don’t know how he could ever endure what he did but, from what the other twelve have told me, their husbands did the very same thing as well. Maybe it was because they figured it was borrowed time that allowed us to live. They had long since decided we would die in childbirth. Having the attributes was, always before, the curse of death for the mother. So once it was diagnosed, we were reconciled to accept it. But then, somehow I survived and no one knew why. Then all the others – The Twelve – they also survived. They wanted to know answers and the answers could only come from studying us as a group.”

“But they still don’t have the answers.”

“No, they don’t,” Sylvia confirmed. “You have, or at least had, a boyfriend named Chase. I am very good friends with his mother. He had a sister named Clare. She lived in Emerald City until she was 10 then moved to Andromeda. She’s a professional musician in the City Orchestra. She plays first violin.”

“You know everyone.”

“Yes, even your friend Cristina and her brother Paul has a mother among our group. She’s a wonderful woman but greatly embarrassed by what all has been going on lately with her son. The Colonial Authority allowed her to travel to Star City to see him.”

“They have him in custody again?”

“There’s no escaping them,” Sylvia looked into her daughter’s eyes. “They have plans for the world and they’re determined the plans will be fulfilled. It’s what needs to happen, Julie. I’ve come to that realization. We’re here to save everyone else. We’re the only ones who can change things. We carry the adaptation the rest of humanity needs. So there’s not a choice. We have to do this for everyone else and their survival.”

Julie discerned a bit of sad acquiescence in her mother’s resolve, not so much as to get her into any trouble. Still, Julie could tell that being confined and unable to go anywhere else bothered her mother. She was envious of Cristina and Paul’s mother just because she had been allowed to go to another city, even if she had been ferried on a special transport, and, from what she had heard, she was already on her way back.

Silvia’s station in life was really been like confinement in a prison. Her crime was not merely having two very special babies with talents and gifts beyond the norm for humanity, but not dying immediately after they were born.

Sylvia took Julie’s hand into hers. “You need to listen to me. I know I have not been there for you but I have been watching and I’ve been proud of you in ways that you cannot understand. You’re tough. You’re a strong-willed young woman and extremely dedicated to whatever you do. You’re probably too intelligent for your own good, but you’ve never flaunted it. You may think you’re right at times, but sometimes you’re not. I think Chase is right for you.”

“He doesn’t trust me.”

“Trust is something that’s earned between two people, never a given in a relationship. A woman seeks love above all else, and it every level and facet of the experience in a relationship. Men are easier. They also need love but what they desire most is respect from the one they choose to share their life. Do you understand?”

“He feels I betrayed him and his friends.”

“What do you think?”

“I didn’t want to see him get hurt again.”

“Is that all?”

Julie started crying, expressing her emotions unintelligibly until, finally she regained some of her composure, at least enough to buck up and take a deep breath before speaking further. “I didn’t want to be left alone.”

“Yet that’s what you received for all your efforts.”

Julie lowered her eyes. Sylvia corralled her shoulders, drawing her closer. “He’s good for you. He’s the best there is. He’ll protect you and be a good father to your children.”

“But he doesn’t trust me.”

“He will in time. Go to him and tell him you respect what he did for his friends. Cherish what you can share with him, because that is all either of you will have in life. From it you will bear your children and that the most important part of your life, not only for you or them, but also for everyone else.”

Julie smiled.

“Tell him you did exactly what you had to do. It was what you felt was right and if he doesn’t understand why you did what, tell him you had to do what you thought was right and you’re sorry, but it was necessary to save his life. Then tell him you love him and completely respect his feelings about his friends, but you also deserve his respect because you were only trying to save his life. He needs to hear that you still need him in your life.”

Julie laughed, “You make it sound simple.”

“Honey, if you think he’s not hurting, you’re wrong. He misses you, maybe more than you miss him. If you open the door in a proper way, he’ll come back inside.”

“I wish I had your confidence.”

“My confidence?” Sylvia asked with chagrin, “Honey, you possess the potential to do such amazing things that you cannot imagine – things that maybe no one else in the world could ever do. You have only to discover the fullness of your abilities. You’re a uniquely incredible person. You’re special in ways none of the other Twenty-Four could ever be. You don’t lack confidence. Merely, you lack experience.”

Julie hugged her mother and wiped away a tear. “Can I come see you?”

“I would welcome the visits, if they allow it.”

“Why would they not allow it?”

“Some of their research requires isolation. There’ve been times when I was confined to my room for over a month or more to control the outside variables of some study or another.”

“They’re still studying you?”

“We’re not supposed to be alive,” Sylvia said. “Despite everything they’ve done to us, poking and prodding and watching us, they still don’t understand why. It’s our nature. We were slightly different than everyone else. That’s all, just enough that we lived while everyone else died. I’ve felt at times like the researchers treat us as if we were dead, too. But Neville, the administrator, is always quick to correct them.”

“Really?”

“All they have accomplished is gathering clues and coming up with more questions they can’t answer, things about us individually that are different as well as things that make us distinct as a group. They have traced our ancestry through interviews with any living relatives and us. They have mapped out each of our genomes and them to the others and what is considered normal. Of course, we’re all similar to the ninety-ninth percentile so they are looking for the one or two things out of a billion or trillion that is special and in common between all of us.”

“They haven’t found out anything?”

“In the one that one percentile of difference we share from all the rest of humanity, The Twelve are more like sisters, almost like twins born of different mothers. Haven’t you noticed the family resemblance?” she asked with a laugh.

“Maybe The Twelve have a common ancestor,” Julie offered.

“I suppose that could be said of most people in the world if you go back far enough, but they think. But yes, there is one common ancestor and he or she is the key to the differences, but it took all these hundreds of years…”

“Do you know anything about the ancestor?”

Sylvia shook her head. “Apparently that’s a secret kept even from us, but they are looking for other relatives in the general population to see if they carry any of the traits they’ve found in us. Finding others with the trait who are fertile and using their genetics to breed with others…well, they’re trying to reproduce what they believe is a random event in nature that produced us.”

“There’s nothing random about it,” Julie said. “That’s where they are wrong in their assumptions. There are no coincidences.”

“You’re right.” Silvia smiled. “We all feel that.”

“I know it. It’s more than a feeling. We’re the design.”

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The Resurrection: Chapter 6 – Location

**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 rolled over and in the process, inadvertently slapped Alix. Startled he sat up quickly, then realized what must have happened and smiled as he saw that Cristina was still sleeping, resting comfortably in a real bed.

It was almost morning anyway. Maybe they really should get up for an early start on preventing events already set into motion. Yet they did not know enough details to even begin to know where to find Paul.

That was important to Cristina. She wanted to find him. He was the only family she had left in the world. She had never known her aunt and uncle, the people who raised Paul. But then, that logic didn’t make sense to Alix even though he said nothing. Until a few weeks ago Cristina did not even know she had a brother.

Alix fell back into the pillow and even though he was awake he was still groggy and considered trying to take another short nap while waiting for Cristina to rouse. He turned on his side and watched her sleeping, listening to her breathe. He confirmed for the millionth time in the past week how very pretty she was regardless of the time of day or whether she was wearing any makeup. He could not imagine her ever seeming ugly to anyone. There was nothing about her he did not like. Everything he found stimulating and fascinating. She was his personal goddess and he worshipped her, but he would never possess her. Others adored her, even worshipping her for her multiple talents as she performed before thousands and thousands of people. But it was different for him.

Maybe he worshipped her for a bit longer than anyone else. He was there in the beginning, the first day she sang for the band at the audition for Keith and Tim. He had been helping Pete tune his drums for their practice. Only his bass could achieve fundamental tones low enough for Pete to attempt tuning his drums directly to another instrument in the band. For everything else, Alix used an oscilloscope and a tone generator.

Alix saw her walk into the studio – if the place they were renting at the time merited the classification ‘studio’. It was Keith’s terminology. Tim warned Alix and Pete they were auditioning a singer for the band. So, they were not surprised when she showed up. Alix was surprised how amazingly pretty and vibrant she was. She brightened the whole room just being there.

She seemed tentative and quiet at first. Keith, the consummate schmooze, was talking and joking with her, trying to set her at ease. But when she began singing in accompaniment to Keith and Tim playing a song on their acoustic guitars, both Pete and Alix immediately stopped to listen. Her voice was like a mythical siren’s. They could not do anything else but listen. When she finished Pete and then Alix clapped. Tim and then Keith joined in.

“I guess I got the job, then?” Cristina ventured.

Keith laughed. “If you can stay a bit longer, I think Alix and Pete are just about tuned up by now and ready to go. Maybe we can jam for a bit.”

They jammed for over an hour on some riffs that Tim had written but had never really finished into a song. It was a jazz-blues sort of thing that lent itself to improvisation. Cristina accompanied the jam, playing an acoustic guitar. She was talented beyond anyone’s expectations. She also claimed ability with a keyboard, an instrument that the band had not yet utilized, mostly because only Alix could play the piano and even then it was not like he could do it all that well.

Alix recalled when Keith handed her a sheet of lyrics. They played the first song, instrumental only so that she could follow through reading the lyrics and timing the transitions. Then they played it again with her singing.

It was as if she owned the song, as if she had always sung it, maybe even written it. She had a presence and authority that commanded attention as she belted out the lyrics. It was at the end when Alix knew for certain she was then and ever after their lead singer.

In the ten years since, she lost nothing except her initial shyness.

He remained motionless, not wanting to disturb her sleep. He knew she needed her rest. She had been through a lot. Everything he had been through, so had she, but at least he got more sleep while traveling in the railcar.

When the first glints of sunlight hinted at the edges of the heavy drapes that were drawn over the windows, Cristina opened her eyes. “What time it is?”

“Around 6 in the morning,” Alix said. “It’s getting light out.”

She sat up. “We shouldn’t have slept this long.”

“You were tired.”

“We need to find Paul. I mean, we really have to find him.”

“Yeah, I get that. But then if you really want to go back three hours…”

Cristina laughed. “You remembered what you did.”

“Yeah, I can do it again.”

She fell back into her pillow. “Really I could stay right here forever.”

“As long as you’re with me, I’m happy to be right where I am,” Alix said.

“You’ve got it bad, don’t you? “

“If there’s a cure, I’m not interested.”

She drew a deep breath. “How do we find him, Alix?”

“You’re his sister, his twin. There must be some connection between the two of you. I mean that girl on the train, Clare, she was a stranger but you knew she had the attributes and you could talk to her, mentally.”

“I wonder how it worked out for her, with her boyfriend.”

“You said they were breaking up.”

“Yeah, well she thought he was cheating on her.”

“And if he wasn’t?”

“She has the attributes. If she thinks it then she has good reason to think it. It’s like having a sinking feeling that something wrong is imminent.”

“Like what I’ve been feeling since I awakened.”

She snuggled in closer then kissed him.

“I wish I knew what was going to happen,” he said.

“If we can go back couple of days, I suppose we can go forward a day or two.”

Alix smiled. “I’m not sure how it would work, though, skipping over the events that because we jumped back, we have not really even lived the experience. Would it be like we were never here to do anything? I don’t know what that would mean.”

“Then we come back and fix what was wrong or do whatever was necessary but missing.”

Alix laughed, “So, you have it all figured out?”

“Not all of it but maybe at least some of it,” Cristina said.

“I know what I did that was different, how we ended up a couple of days earlier. I just don’t know whether I could get back to where I was if I went into the future by a day more, or even if we lived on to arrive at the point where the future becomes our present.  Would it be the same as what I witnessed. There are always a variety of conditions and a number of variables to consider. Any one potential change, even seemingly insignificant could alter everything else.”

“You’ve thought a lot about this.”

“Yeah, I have,” Alix confirmed.

“Still, we have to do something.”

Alix nodded. “I’m just not sure what we’re supposed to do.”

“Who decides what’s supposed to happen?” Cristina asked.

“I think there’s a conditional destiny of sorts.”

“A what?”

“I can’t describe it any other way. It is like this. What if we do this then this, this, and that? If we do that instead of this, then what does it change?”

“I follow your thinking,” Cristina allowed.

“The courses are potentials, but they’re predetermined based on the choices we make in the immediate moment.”

“If I get up from bed now as opposed to ten minutes from now, it changes everything.”

“Well, some things may result in greater change than others, but yeah, I think that’s the gist of it,” Alix said.

Immediately, Cristina sat up in bed. “I need to find Paul. I feel like something very permanent is about to happen, something no one can ever fix or even if it could be remedied it would take an amazing act of intervention.”

“We’ll both get dressed,” Alix said as he tossed back the covers and then stepped out of bed onto the cool stone floor.

However it was possible that Dom knew, while they showered and dressed he prepared breakfast for them. When they emerged from their room, Dom was awaiting  that the top of the stairs and escorted them to where breakfast was served.

“Is Raven sleeping?” Cristina asked.

“He’s been in his study working on something all night. He told me that before you leave to inform him so he could give you something.”

“Give me something?”

“The way he phrased it I assumed it was something for both of you.”

“That’s intriguing,” Alix said. “I didn’t think he liked me much. Maybe his opinion of me has changed by the company I keep.”

Cristina smiled at Alix.

When they had completed their breakfasts, and exited out into the hall, Dom escorted them to the Master’s study. He knocked at the door and Raven granted permission for entry.

“Good morning,” Cristina said to him.

Raven smiled in response, “Were the accommodations suitable?”

“They were beyond excellent,” Alix answered for them both.

“Very good, then,” Raven stood and offered each of them a velvet pouch with cinch string. When they opened their pouches they discovered new payment wands. “Dom has reprogrammed your ID chips with new identities that are meticulously perfect as well as tied to the wands. Dom handles all of those things for me. When the ID files are accessed there will be a full history, including minor infractions, violations, and juvenile records of some mischief. There are school records and even some college records. Dom has created new lives for you. If you remain here he can even arrange for accommodations in an apartment building that I own. I’m a member of an investment consortium that is not directly linkable to me. A vacant apartment there is the address referenced on your ID’s. There are sufficient funds attached to the payment wands for you to linger in the city for several days then return home if and when you so desire and think it is safe. Dom is pretty good at estimating what would be required. He also monitors the accounts so if they run low he can replenish them from a blind account that’s not attached to mine in any way, shape or form.”

“What is this?” Alix asked as he pulled out a thin gold chain bearing an odd looking stone that glowed ever so slightly as it dangled from the chain as he held it.

“Talismans or if you prefer amulets; some would call them good luck charms, others might have divergent opinions.”

“It’s very pretty,” Cristina said as she extracted her own from the pouch. “What sort of gem stone is this? I’m not familiar with it.”

“The source stone is unique. There was originally only one and it was shattered into many pieces, of which these are but a small portion. It is said that these stones are a piece of the Foundation Stone, which is all that was left when the previous iteration of the universe concluded. These became the basis for the present creation. It is a legend and as is true of all legends there is enough fact in it so it cannot be summarily dismissed. I have studied the stones. They produce strange variations in the harmonic forces of the universe immediately around them. It is a fact that they can enhance the native abilities of those who bear them whenever there is a need to access the power inherent in the universe to channel through them.”

“And you are giving them to us as lucky charms?”

Raven smiled, “I’m giving them to you because they may help you and even protect you. The attributes the two of you possess are remarkable, yet they are abilities latent in everyone who is human. Despite the seeming magic in what you can do, there is really nothing magical in any of your demonstrated abilities. These stones are magical in that they can access the flow of the energy underlying and defining the very universe.”

“Thank you,” Cristina said, then rose up on her toes and kissed Raven. “Thank you, Andy,” she reiterated with a more personal touch.

Raven smiled at her, then accepted Alix’s handshake. “Goodbye and good luck,” he said to them both.

“Raven,” Cristina turned back as she paused at the door. “Did you ever find her?”

Raven seemed perplexed by the question. “There have been many hers who I have obviously found in life.”

“The real Marie?”

Raven stepped back but smiled as if savoring the image of her that his mind conjured. “Then you have read more than I suspected.”

“I have read a good bit but I have never finished it.”

“Tell me, what do you think?”

“I’ve always wanted to believe that you found her.”

“If that is what you believe then who am I to disappoint you?”

“How does it end in the book?”

“What’s the difference if you never read it to the conclusion? As the reader, a book can end anyway that you want it to, right? If the writing doesn’t compel you to the real conclusion, it ends wherever you leave off.”

“I would like to know how the real story ended.”

Raven laughed. “Authors must conclude works of fiction in ways that in the real world might never be possible.”

“You’re not going to tell me.”

“No, I’m not,” Raven said. “You may read it and whether you like the ending or not it is the conclusion. You may decide to linger in the hope that your guess is correct.”

“What happened to her?”

“As she was mortal having nothing artificially extending her life, her demise was much the same as anyone else’s,” he said.

Cristina nodded. “You were with her when she died.”

“You think you’ve tricked me into telling you the end but you’ve not. I’ve only said what is normal for anyone.”

Cristina tilted her head to one side, but then kissed Raven on the cheek again. Then, she turned to exit into the hallway and joined Alix there. Dom saw them to the front door where he handed them backpacks he had prepared with several days of clothing and some non-perishable food. Then, even Dom offered his goodbyes and good luck wishes.

As they descended the hill toward the coach stop, they saw the coach turning in the cul-de-sac at the end of ‘the hills’ route. It would reach the stop at just about the same time as they would. They would not have to wait at all.

They boarded the coach, temporarily stowing their backpacks beneath the bench seat. The coach was vacant except for them, and even unto the exit for ‘the crosstown’, no one else boarded. When they arrived at their exit they gathered up their backpacks and got off. Presently another coach stopped to pick them up just across the street from where they were let off.

Once they were settled again with their backpacks stowed under the bench sea, Cristina sighed, muttering something about not really knowing where to begin to look for Paul. Alix’s response was a nod, but nothing more.

She suspected Paul would return to the vicinity of stations, so perhaps that was a good enough place to start her search for him. She remained immersed in thought and Alix did not disturb her with idle prattle in lieu of purposeful points of conversation.

For his own part he was considering all the practicalities of how to possibly alter the course of events. It was difficult as he did not know what was going to happen. He assumed if they did nothing it would be worse than if they did something to delay what was increasingly beginning to seem inevitable.

Events would begin to progress from that afternoon regardless of what they did. They had taken flight from the authorities. If they were ever going to erase that from reality, they would need to go back to Andromeda, perhaps even back before Cristina made the railcar reservations.

“Sometimes I wish I’d never met Paul,” Cristina said quite abruptly, completely derailing Alix’s thoughts. “But I guess I had no choice in the matter. We’re connected. We’re related. So, everything about us shares some ultimate commonality of purpose.”

“I’m not sure I believe that,” Alix said. “Your objectives are completely different from his.”

“Maybe I’ve come here to persuade him. I’m sure he has come here to persuade me. And yet the authorities are trying very hard to keep us apart. Why? That’s really what I need to know. What’s wrong with a brother and sister meeting and talking, even having a disagreement. If we still go our separate ways and maintain respect for one another, who’s business is it what we do or say to one another?”

“Obviously, we need more information,” Alix said.

“We need more time.”

“Time I can give you,” Alix said as he opened his palm and the orb appeared there. Its presence caused both of the gift talismans they both received from Raven to glow brighter. “Isn’t that interesting?” Alix observed.

Cristina produced her orb as well, with a similar result. Then, rolling her hand over, her orb went back into the semi-oblivion just beyond the veils of reality where she kept it. The glow of their talismans diminished slightly.

“Very interesting,” Alix commented in supplement to his previous observation.

“When we were in the apartment back in New Milan, we brought our orbs together.”

Alix nodded, “And that is when we saw a sand-morph.”

“It was alive,” Cristina said.

“It felt like we were in the past as observers.”

“The creature seemed to respond to us.”

“We assumed that.”

“But lately I have wondered whether it was the past at all.”

“There are no sand-morphs. There have not been living sand-morphs for generations.”

“How do we know that?” Cristina said.

“They were all killed when the world was sterilized.”

“What if some of them survived?”

“Where would they be? The world has been explored and colonized for years and years. Someone would have found them by now.”

“They would have had to be deep in caverns to have survived the effects of sterilization.”

Alix nodded. “According to Chase, Paul was in a cavern when he met him.”

“You don’t think Paul actually found where they are.”

“It’s possible but unlikely.”

“I doubt it, too,” Cristina said. “He would not be so adamant about The Resurrection’s goals if he’d found any of the sand-morphs who were still alive.”

“If any were alive you would think, after all this time, someone would have made contact with them.”

“Or them with us,” she said.

They reached their stop before they noticed and although they scrambled to get up in time to exit, the coach was already pulling away from the curb. They sat back down, clutching their belongings in their laps and waited to arrive at the next stop, where they finally exited.

They turned back to the north and began to walk toward the stop they missed when suddenly they observed a group of young men who seemed to be in a hurry crossing the street at the next corner. Cristina shivered as if she had taken a chill, prompting Alix to inquire, “What’s wrong?”

“All of them.”

“What?”

“All of them have the attributes.”

“They’re part of The Resurrection.”

She nodded. “Affiliated. We have to follow them. Maybe they know where Paul is.”

They broke into a run to reach the corner before the group disappeared down another street. They were just in time to see the last few men in the group entering an alley. They hurried along the street, finally reaching the alley where the men were congregated. A group of them advanced behind a building while one remained out in the alley proper.

Cristina and Alix slipped their arms out of the straps of their backpacks and set them down as they hid in the shadows, nestled in doorways that were recessed into the walls of adjacent buildings. There they waited, watching what was happening, wondering what was going on. Suddenly, Cristina gasped, then immediately suppressed it. “Paul,” she whispered as he had seemingly appeared from nowhere.

Across the way Alix nodded. He saw him too.

The man who remained in the alley halted him. The two of them were conversing, somewhat animated at first but then just as the balance of the group of men returned to the alley to surround them, the man who stopped Paul delivered some sort of a verbal chastisement to his obvious subordinates. Some of it was audible but only a word here and there. Even so both Alix and Cristina got the gist of it.

After a few moments Paul was blindfolded and physically escorted past Cristina and Alix as the two of them withdrew further into the recesses of the doorways while Paul and the others emerged out into the street.

They followed them for a time, as they meandered through the streets, perhaps trying to confuse Paul, then a few blocks from where they found Paul, the apparent leader, Paul and a couple of escorts disappeared into an archway that concealed a stairway that led directly from the street to a floor that was above a small novelty store that was not yet open for the day’s business hours.

Cristina and Alix sat in an alley across the street and observed for a time until the apparent leader came back down the stairway and exited through the archway onto the street. He turned to the east and went on his way. After a few minutes the other two escorts departed, exiting heading west.

“Do we follow them or the leader?”

“Paul is still in that building,” Cristina said as she shed her backpack and propped it against the wall of the building to support the small of her back. “We’ll wait here.”

As Paul removed his backpack as well he asked, “Do you think Paul is in any kind of trouble, I mean more so than already?”

“I don’t know. I sort of feel he’s safe, at least for the moment.”

Alix squatted down where he was and then finally sat back on the ground with his back supported by his backpack as he leaned back against the wall for support.

Cristina was happy to know where Paul was and content to allow events to progress as they would for a while at least. Alix glanced at his chronometer. It was getting fairly late for the morning. Soon the businesses would be open and the bustle of the day would replace the present prevailing tranquility.

As the shop on the first floor of the building that they had been watching opened for business they observed as people came and went. In midmorning she saw someone entering the building, ascending the stairs and then came back down a few minutes later. Suddenly, Cristina stood up, snatching up her backpack by its straps. “Let’s go,” she said.

“I thought we were just going to watch.”

“We are. I just want to see where Paul is – inside.”

Cristina exited the alley and started across the street before Alix could even grab his backpack and try to catch up. She passed beneath the arch and bounded up the stairs, taking two at a time as Alix had finally caught up but was still a step or two in her wake.

They opened the door and entered into a vacant, nearly open floor, the only walls other than the outer walls were a series of partitions constructed from the front wall of the building back to halfway into the floor then formed a sharp corner to adjoin with a sidewall of the building.

Cristina led the way as they explored the entire floor, finding nothing even though she kept telling Alix that she knew Paul was nearby. She even paused for several moments and faced a wall, reaching out and almost touching the wall. “I’m confused,” she said to Alix.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “He’s very close but we’ve looked everywhere.”

Alix went inside the room and checked, looking at everything from ceiling to floor. When he emerged he shrugged, “Unless there is some concealed room on this floor, I have no explanation.”

“We go back where we were and watch. I’m certain he’s here.”

They descended the stairs and headed toward the alley across the street where they had previously been. In the building next to the alley was a small coffee shop. Alix offered to buy Cristina a cup of coffee and she accepted. They sat together sipping coffee at a table beside the front window as Cristina maintained her vigil.

The gentleman who apparently owned the shop came out to their table and personally thanked them for coming in. They promised him that they would return and he thanked them.

When they had finished their coffee they returned to the alley and again deposited their backpacks onto the pavement in exactly the right way to afford them some lower back support while leaning back against the wall of the building that housed the coffee shop.

Around noon, someone approached bearing a relatively flat rectangular box, which he carried between his hands. He passed beneath the arch and ascended the stairs. In a few minutes he returned down the stairs carrying the box vertically under his arm as if it were empty, or at least he no longer cared about the contents.

She considered it for a few minutes, and then looked at the chronometer on Paul’s wrist. “Is it noon?”

“Yeah, close enough for argument’s sake. Why, are you hungry?”

“Well, yeah, but that’s not why I asked. It’s funny. Someone just went upstairs in the building across the street and appeared to deliver something.”

“Where? There’s no one there.”

“Exactly my point. Not only that but he was carrying it flat, like it was a tray, then when he returned he had the box tucked under his arm.”

“Lunch?”

“That’s my thought.”

Alix shrugged. “Okay, if Paul’s there he’s somewhere we can’t access, for whatever reason.”

“Behind a false wall,” Cristina suggested.

“A concealed room,” Alix said. “If we had a measuring meter we could confirm it.”

“We could get one.”

“I suppose we could.”

“Well one of us needs to stay here and watch the building.”

“I’ll get the measuring meter. There has to be somewhere near here that sells hardware.”