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The Resurrection: Chapter 29 – Nature’s Resettling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, I’m fine?”

“You’re not thirsty?”

“Not particularly.”

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

“Thanks,” Paul said.

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

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

“I hope she’s not discouraged.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know what you mean.”

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

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

“I was in New Milan two weeks ago.”

“I think Clare mentioned that.” He guessed.

“Do you remember Pete?”

“Pete?”

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

“When was that?”

“Last fall when you and I were there.”

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

“Hey!”

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

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

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

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

“Or there needs to be a rematch.”

“That would involve going back to New Milan.”

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

“There you go.”

“It’s even better.”

“Why?” Paul inquired.

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

“And you immediately thought of Cristina.”

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

“You think Cristina has what the others lack?”

“I do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I guess it’s all gone,” Paul said.

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

“Never mind.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Exactly.”

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

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

“Like you forgot about shooting pool against Pete.”

“Yes, things like that.”

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

“I don’t know,” Paul said.

“Maybe you’re getting old.”

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

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

Paul smiled as he continued along beside him.

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

The Resurrection: Chapter 28 – Unexpected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We grew up apart, always strangers.”

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

“You think you know,” Cristina said.

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

“Why are you here?”

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

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

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

“Through the orb,” Alix said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And so the beast speaks,” Paul said.

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

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

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

“The Sakum’malien,” Staash corrected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Still the catalyst must always endure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s beautiful,” he conceded.

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

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

“It’s perfect,” Paul suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not convinced you’re right.”

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

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

“Sakum’mal,” Staash corrected.

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

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

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

“I’ve never met her,” Cristina said.

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

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

“Alix is over-taxed now,” Paul said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your point?” Alix said.

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

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

“What is EMP?” Cristina asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is lead?” Staash asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“Gold?” Staash asked.

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

Staash glowed as was his way of smiling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t understand,” Alix said.

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

“But all that is in the future.”

“Yes, so now—“

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

Paul nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

“Or less,” Alix said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Dtuot’manuh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This would constitute an emergency.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Paul asked.

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

Paul laughed. “You’re not serious.”

“We can welcome the next humans who arrive.”

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

“Wait,” Staash said. “You need this.”

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

“Or discover on the floor of a cavern?”

Alix laughed, “It would be something.”

“What kind of paradox would that create?”

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

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

“I will miss you,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Resurrection: Chapter 27 – The Bridge

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

The reason for the linkage was unclear, but with certainty she could sense it. Cristina wrestled with the concept in her waking mind, hunted with the images lingering from her dreams. Nonsensical visions from the distant past, well before she had been a thought in her mother’s mind and before her mother or grandmother was born. Past voices telling stories of others worlds, of destinies and obligations, strange but compelling, each of them was telling her the same undeniable truth about connections and relationships. Her life had a meaning that transcended the brief spans of an individual’s mortal plight.

In her dream there were beautiful green eyes, just like hers, staring back at her from a mirror. Though the face resembled her, it was exotic in a way hers was not. Observing her transforming into a half human hybrid with features of wolves and cats, this was the bridge and how it formed in her ancestral past.

Upon the brink of a void deep and dark she stood until suddenly, with spiraling light that spread across a spectrum it exploded. So broad the range and vast the scale her mind retreated barely able to conceive of the colors at the fringe of perception. More refined, the twisting, climbing ladder wrapped around with the rungs breaking in the middle, unlocked to allow for other pieces of the light to be included within its framework.

In the background the harmonic beauty of the Sakum’malien language swept past her, capturing her imagination as her voice layered upon it in persisting nuance. With a voracious hunger a solitary alabaster orb floated consuming everything around it until it became all that was left, and its surface changed colors on its whim. Only the black blankness of the void surrounded it, the beginning as well as the culmination of all journeys compressed into the single stone the orb had become.

Unwitting allies, unbounded in time, the Couriers went into the past carrying the alteration as a disease to infect every human. Slow and methodical, the Sakum’malien patience prevailed spreading the necessary pestilence that bore curious hope in its wake as part of the balance. A time would come for the bridge’s arrival. She would communicate the horrible fate of colonists and provide a remedy that would alter the divine countenance of forever.

Finally, she understood a role, appreciating the subtlety of the Sakum’malien revenge. Contained in her personal truth, the threads of continuity extended through and wrapped around the greater context. It was something she possessed, portions of it shared with others, but its heart resided within her and no one else. How could she embody both what was and what would become? Who would understand her if she could not comprehend the new role as the bridge? Alone, providing the remedy, she was held all potential, nullifying the need for the disease as well as the mutation that made her and others like her special. Her vision contained a billion trillion destinies to awaken via a song she could not but sing. She was the heart and soul of the universe, the physical and spiritual linked to the infinite dreams of innocent children and the harmless fantasies of old men and women lamenting the loss of better times.

Cristina stretched as she sat up in the bed. Alix rolled away from her, clutching at a pillow, pulling it toward his chest as a surrogate for his unconscious affections. He settled anew and resumed his sleep with a substitute lover held fast in his arms.

Quietly, she rose, taking pains not to disturb him. Her lover needed rest. He had not slept well on the railcar ride from Star City. Still recovering and adjusting to the time zones, he never did sleep well while traveling. Afterward, he always remained in bed for a day or two. Usually so did she, but this time was different. This time there were guests, not just the other members of the band who crashed on the floor and couch in her apartment.

As she stepped lightly across the threshold, carefully she closed the bedroom door behind her. Taking a few moments to purge her bladder in the bathroom before rejoining Staash at the table. From the living room she could hear the snores of her friends and fellow musicians. It was still dark, before dawn perhaps. Her sense of time was distorted. People were probably never intended to travel faster than they cold walk or ride on the back of a beast of burden. Then again, what might the gods have expected of the most clever of all the apes? Would they have not foreseen the curiosity leading them to explore and colonize other worlds?

It appeared as if the Sakum’mal had not moved since she left him last night. They were up late. The learning process was mentally intense and exhausting, though apparently it had taken less than a half hour. The song containing the warning was composed and well rehearsed. She had only to teach it to her band. With their instruments and vocals sung in harmony they would fill in for the multiple layers voice she physically lacked.

Staash rested in his own way. She did not know how long it would take for him to recover. Since their intimate connection there was deep understanding of his nature. He could go for many days without downtime. So, she figured whenever he finally rested, as he was at the moment, it would be for an extended period.

To her immediate surprise he looked up at her and even acknowledged her through telepathy as was natural for him and his kind. Now, the gift of her telepathy made sense. How could she had been born otherwise than she gifted in the way she was? Responding with a smile she observed his face brighten. He loved her in his way, after his own fashion. It was nothing that could be physically consummated, of course. Last night their minds merged in mutual admiration without reservation or embarrassment. They were lovers of one another’s creativity, sharing a bond well beyond what either of them knew with their separate species. Silently she spoke to him in Sakum’malien, even though her thoughts felt flat and not quite as interesting as it seemed in her imagination.

“You’ve learned my language well,” he projected.

“You’ve been an immeasurable help to me.”

“It’s all purposeful, for us both.”

“And beyond either of us,” she responded. “I am the human half of the bridge you complete you built.”

“I’ve always wanted to know you.” Staash peered into her eyes, meeting her mind halfway. “The uneasiness I felt when I first came here is gone.”

Cristina nodded. As well as he did, she knew what had been done and what was left unfulfilled. After a few moments Staash’s eyes engaged hers and in moments she was off again, on another adventure of mutual discovery, immersed in thoughts she could only have if the Sakum’malien language was her foundation.

The irony of the plague was the cruelest sort of revenge for human stupidity. The first human encounter with alien life ended tragically in the ignorance of not expecting the truth. The violence had not gone unnoticed. All mankind now suffered for the acts of the first few humans who explored Pravda. Now, facing extinction as one possible culmination, a plot was carried out over centuries, but in the balance one bridge could provide an equitable remedy.

The Sakum’malien represented a prevalent form of life in the cosmos. In human ethnocentricity carbon was believed to be the key to life in the universe. Yet it was the exception. One had only to observe humans and the other forms of life that once populated the Earth to understand how frail carbon-based life could be. Sickly and prone to spreading disease humans were easy prey for the Sakum’malien to attack, enlisting the help of humanoids to deliver their revenge. They could afford to be patient in meting out their vengeance over centuries. Merely seeking the unbounded to fold time and deliver their curse upon all of mankind, an insidious genetic plague was visited upon the unsuspecting and spread through the act of procreation.

Staash interrupted her thoughts. He spoke, not through his mind but with his raspy voice. “I’m thirsty.”

Cristina took the empty pitcher from the table and his glass and took them into the kitchen. From the freezer she scooped ice into the pitcher then poured water into it from the faucet. After a few moments she returned to the dinette table and delivered to Staash the pitcher and a fresh glass both filled with cold water.

He consumed the contents of the glass almost immediately and then meeting her eyes he projected happiness as he poured another glass and consumed it as well.

“You can drink water anytime you know. There’s a faucet in the kitchen, same as the place we were before,” she said.

Staash nodded. “I have been content to sit here close to the source in case of an emergency that has not yet come.”

Cristina sat back, staring at him. “You speak fluently.”

“As do you and now in my language as well. It happens with enough practical experience, I suppose. Also the manner of our merging helped. You learned Sakum’malien, I learned English, Italian, Spanish, German and French.”

Cristina smiled. “My languages.”

“They are similar despite their differences,” he said.

Staash stood up from the table and focused on her eyes but only for a moment. He focused on the world viewer screen where Alix and Pete had engaged in a battle royale sort of marathon well into the previous night.

Activated with a thought, the main screen illuminated full on, Staash pointed his hand and the device scrolled through the channels to an unassigned frequency that appeared as random black and while pixels representing the static. Yet, he allowed it to linger. As she stared at the graphical display of white noise, it suddenly appeared, in full focus with sharp clarity and well-defined resolution. She understood it and even wondered why it had never occurred to her before. Everything being part of the same Continuum, it seemed simple. Then as her mind reached to possess it, the image returned to the random pattern of noise.

“Yes,” Staash said as he switched the display off. “Now you understand how everything is connected through the electromagnetic spectrum.”

“The reason has a source we must remove,” she protested.

“Your role is not incongruous with your original plan. You always knew what to do not how to do it.”

“How can it be?”

“You warn the colonies of Sakum’malien about the airlocks.”

“They were ours not yours.”

He nodded.

“Why ?”

“It is a mystery, but should it matter?”

“I suppose they needed the airlock to seal in air we could breathe without respirators or filters as we explored the caverns.”

“How do we fix it?” Staash asked.

“I’m not sure it can be.”

“There must be a way. The plaque is removed never to be visited upon humans, if we solve the riddle.”

“The couriers will never be dispatched into the past to deliver the disease…” Then she sober realization came as she posed the one question he had avoided asking. “What about the attributes?”

Staash sighed but his lack of response answered in silence. Despite her attempts to probe he guarded his thoughts. When he finally spoke his tone as conciliatory. His mood was philosophical. “The world will change regardless of what you or anyone else does.”

“Will I be here after? It’s not irrational trepidation. It’s instinctual. I want to survive.”

“Then you’ll find the means to survive,” Staash said. “The attributes exist within all humans. They have been there since the beginning. My kind enhanced the inherent abilities in a few. Over many generations the gifts became distinct for not one or two of a thousand but millions. Then, enough apparent randomness brought attributes together.”

“In the Twenty-Four.” Cristina stood beside the Sakum’mal, her arm wrapped around his waist. “Come with me.” They walked toward the balcony. “Maybe you can explain something.”

There they paused to stare out through the sliding door of her balcony. Beyond the dome the skies in the east were bright with dawn. Behind her apartment building was a grassy courtyard. In the midst there was a circular bench set around a large table. There were two girls and two boys sitting, coloring-in line-drawn picture with markers. One looked up at the sunrise, the others averted their overly sensitive eyes. Cristina wore a smile in empathy with what she could sense from the girl.

“She’s like me,” Cristina pointed. “I noticed her before we went on tour, and again afterwards. She’s the age I was when I began to feel self-conscious about my differences.”

“You see but you miss the point of your visions. Who are her playmates?”

“I don’t understand.”

“They are the same age, exactly.”

“Siblings.”

Staash glowed.

“Quadruplets?”

“Why would your physical nature be as it is?” Staash asked.

“It never occurred to me.”

Then he pointed to a balcony in the building across the way, one that was an exact mirror image of Cristina’s apartment building and where they stood. “The mother of four.”

“She has the attributes.”

“It is intended that those like you replace humans and repopulate the world rapidly.”

Cristina looked into his eyes. “Four offspring? The next generation will be called The Ninety-Six.” Cristina smiled.

Staash reached out patting her stomach. “Already it begins.”

She leaned against him for support, not questioning how he knew what she had not dared to admit to herself. “I felt the possibility, of course.”

“Alix should know.”

She nodded.

“The little girl sings.”

“She’s a lot like me.”

“Another bridge.”

“In case I fail?”

“You won’t.” Staash turned away from the door and Cristina followed. She drew a deep breath. Almost overwhelming pressure upon her, why was it that she had to be the bridge? Why was it that only she was the bridge for this generation. Was her set of gifts that rare?

The very means by which the Sakum’malien revenge was meted out would not only ended many innocent lives, but also it produced the very attributes that made her different enough to give mankind its only hope. To remove the curse would end the need for her and those like her to ever be. Her mother might never be born, nor the little girl and her siblings in the courtyard. There would be no plague sent back in the past to infect all of mankind.

“I have not previously felt this mood in you,” Staash said. “It’s melancholy and not at all becoming. You’re too beautiful inside and out to have such dread darkness in your thoughts.”

“It’s how I feel. I’ve written a song that contains a message to communicate danger to your kind. Saving you will kill me. Ultimately I bring an end the world I know to become part of the random noise you showed me on the world viewer screen.”

“Within the noise there was a hidden pattern you saw. That is the hope.”

“Where I’ll be, there’s nowhere to hide.”

Staash’s face turned dark as he fully grasped her unique dilemma. “Instantaneous transformation, somewhere else in the cosmos we will be. Only the path we’re on ends.”

Having awakened, Alix visited the bathroom, then arrived at the table ready to boast of his eventual victory in last night’s marathon video game match with Pete. But instead he fought back tears of sympathy for having overheard enough of the conversation. What a burden Cristina bore.

He did not know how they could continue pursuing the course they had begun. In a way it seemed to have come from an accident, except there can be no accidents. Everything led to the present moment. It would not matter to any of them what could have been. Once the choice was made, everything else would adjust to accommodate change – even if it meant that in convergence some lives became oblivion.

He wanted to hold her except he felt the separation was necessary. If he embraced her at that moment he would never let her go. He needed for her to always be with him but, antithetical to his purpose, her life was to change the rules. It could be as he desired most to hold her close to him. If he refused to assist her in this oddly noble sort of suicide, would it matter to anyone else but him?

Alix tried hard to appear happy, as if he had not been eavesdropping and did not know what troubled the love of his life. But as he approached her he could not contain his emotions or the sadness of realization. She bore his offspring. How could any choice be worse than what she already faced? He diverted toward the kitchen and turned on the faucet and cupped his hand to splash cold water onto his face in an effort to conceal the trails of his tears.

She turned toward him. Her eyes met his. There could be no secrets, not between them. “What am I going to do?” she asked him.

“You’re going to do the right thing because you don’t have it in you to do otherwise,” Alix said.

“What if we cease to be?”

Alix shrugged. “I prefer to the believe somewhere we will still be together.”

“So we go on with our plans.”

“We have no other choice. We have to take Staash back home before he drinks up all the water in the world.” He looked up at the Sakum’malien who was glowing in apparent appreciation of the humor intended in the remark.

“We have a song to learn and rehearse. We need to record it. It’s our legacy.”

“Then what?”

“We come back and finish recording the new album and begin a world tour.”

“Do we?”

“Of course, we do. Those are our plans. We have to have plans, right?”

“What if this world does not exist, Alix? What if humans never colonized Pravda? What if we’re never born? Once we have changed the past, it can’t possibly be as it is now. Everything will be different.”

“One thing at a time. We do what’s right. Okay? Everything takes care of itself as long as we do what we know in our hearts is the right thing. Anyway, why wouldn’t it be like it is now except the Sakum’malien will be around, maybe not living in complete harmony with us but drinking their share of the water, for sure.”

“There are oceans for us to consume,” Staash suggested.

“See, a little salty for my taste, but there’s plenty for all.”

“I’ll never be born.”

“Someone like you will, though. The world I’m in must have a Cristina, okay?” he kissed her forehead. “It wouldn’t work otherwise.”

She forced a smile.

“Our world’s necessary so that the past can be changed. Have you considered that? We can come back to it and everything will be here but adjusted for the changes. That’s probably how it works.”

“Probably?”

“I’m new to all this too, hon.”

Staash was quiet as he contemplated the possibilities and even tried to understand paradoxes even though the concepts were a strain for him to consider in his language. The words did not natively exist so he had to use the English that he acquired to conceptualize what Alix and Cristina were discussing. There were thoughts that he could render only in his language, simple mathematical proofs that exposed the absurdity of what was perplexing Cristina and needlessly troubling her. Finally he found the will to express his conclusion. “There are no paradoxes.”

“What?” Alix challenged.

“Nature is balanced to zero-sum. Everything adjusts. To live is to always live. All life shares continuity in natural harmony.”

“How’s that possible?” Cristina asked. “Without the reason for the altered gene–”

“Your concerns are for the vessel that contains your spirit. Your body is a shell that changes but your spirit is the same.” He laid his heavy, rough-textured hand on her shoulder. “You think this is you, but ‘I’ is now. It is less real than the image you saw in the noise on the world viewer screen.”

Cristina looked at Alix, seeking confirmation but all she received as a shrug.

“Your brother believes he can bring a Sakum’mal back to life. He might reanimate the body but once the essence has departed, it does not come back. Why would it want to? For the body death is the absence of desire to live. That is derived from the spirit,” he explained. “The missing part is what the container needs to transcend being an inanimate amalgam of chemicals to become self-sustaining life.”

“But if all the surrounding conditions change.”

“Why would that concern you as long as you’re alive?”

“I want to have choice.”

“To be alive is to have choices,” Staash said.

“What if Alix and I are not together?”

“How could you not be together?”

“But the attributes–”

“Affect the body and how it can respond for the spirit inside. They do not define you. They shape the container that accesses the energy around you.”

Cristina stared at the alien. Alix wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “So, we will not cease to exist. See, the problem is solved.”

“What if we come back and we’re not together?”

“A better question to ask is what if you and I did not waste ten years pretending to be just friends?” Alix asked her.

“The world is what you perceive,” Staash said. “One change everything adjusts.

“The process begins tomorrow,” Alix said.

“In the studio,” Cristina confirmed with a nod. “We record the message, our truth.”

Staash’s face glowed ever so slightly as he considered the change of Cristina’s mood and appraised the resolve he found.

She did not fully believe that she had nothing to fear, but she didn’t need to. She turned and to kiss Alix before they parted, Alix returning to the bedroom to get dressed while Cristina headed toward the bathroom to enjoy a shower. In the interim, Staash consumed the remainder of the pitcher of water, dutifully pouring it out one glassful at a time and then he reverted to a restful state of near meditative bliss.

Pete, Tim and Keith woke about the same time. They raided the fridge finding something to eat, consumed it and rinsed off the dishes before announcing they were leaving. “We’ll meet at the studio,” Cristina promised.”

“In a couple of hours,” Alix added.

When Cristina emerged from the shower she wrapped a towel around her, and another around her hair. She engaged Alix as he was lying on the bed reading. “It’ll feel odd being back in the studio,” she said aloud.

“After all we have been through lately, it should feel like a vacation,” Alix said without looking up. “I’m looking forward to making music again.”

“I just wish that was all we had ahead of us.”

“I hear you, hon,” Alix said, finally looking away from the text.

“What is it you are reading?”

“Pete told me I’d enjoy it. It’s funny at times but, maybe I need to be in a different frame of mind.”

“I understand that.”

“It will be fine. I promise. I’ll be there. We will do it together. We’ll make it happen the way it needs to be.”

“I wish I had your confidence.”

“Staash will be there, too.”

“And once we get back there, we have just five days to spread the word,” she said.

“We go back to a point immediately after we left. I worked out some of that on the computer yesterday before Pete came.”

“My concern is how we get to every one of their colonies in only five days.”

“I suppose we could go back earlier,” he said.

“We have to deliver Staash to where he belongs. If we go back earlier there will be two of him.”

Alix smiled. “Yeah, one of him is quite sufficient, I think.”

“I’m glad you think this is funny,” Cristina said.

“I guess I was trying to lighten the mood. I used to be good at making you laugh.”

“I’m sorry I’m not in the mood,” she turned away from him, continuing to dress.

“This really has you on edge,” Alix said as he got up from the bed and came up from behind her and began to gently massage her shoulders and neck.

“That feels good.”

“You just need to relax. It’s going to be fine.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“It will be fine because it has to be.” Alix kissed her on the nape of her neck. “I love you,” he whispered as he came up to her ear lobe, kissing a special place just under it. She turned around and into his open arms that he immediately closed tightly around her, holding onto her to share a kiss that lingered for several moments before breathlessly she pulled away and out of his grasp.

“I have been the focal point for so long that maybe I should be used to this,” Cristina said.

“You’re the star,” Alix said.

“The reluctant one,” she said with a forced smile.

“I’ll be with you, right behind you like always.”

“I know,” she said. “Sometimes I think I was able to perform all those concerts because you and the other guys were there with me. It was never only me performing. That was always the difference. I know there would be someone to catch me if I fall.”

“I’ll always catch you.” Alix promised.

“For whatever reason there are parts of this only I can do. But I also need you to deliver Staash and me to the time and place where we will begin delivering the message. I have no idea how we’re ever going to pull this off.”

“We have accomplished some pretty amazing things already,” Alix said. “It has always been because of your inspiration.”

“Add this our growing collection, then. Hopefully we’ll remember it.”

 

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The Resurrection: Chapter 25 – Destination

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

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

He nodded.

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

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

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

“I thought you liked gambling.”

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

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

“We let them win sometimes.”

“To egg them on.”

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

“I know. It will be good to be home.”

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

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

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

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

“What are you going to call the song?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I like it.”

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Maybe, just a little.”

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

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

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

“That was some trick.”

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

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

“Yes.”

“In his case he eats what he is.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” Keith said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Or dress in waterproof clothing,” Cristina allowed.

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

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

“So the studio is reserved?” Cristina asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Except Staash,” Keith allowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is he safe?” Keith asked.

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

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

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

“Yeah, it was,” Alix said.

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

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

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

“Hey now!” Tim cautioned.

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

Cristina laughed. “He has other redeeming qualities.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You guys thirsty?”

“Staash is always thirsty,” Alix said.

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

“Staash no want to die.”

Cristina nodded. “Anyone else?”

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

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

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

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

“If no trouble.”

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

“Humans like dry. Staash understands.”

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

“But you will not be comfortable.”

“I can adapt,” she said.

“Thank you,” Staash said.

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

“Easier sending Staash home, I think.”

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

“Staash understands.”

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

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

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

“You not resist Staash.”

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

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

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

“You must trust Staash.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course it is,” she said quietly.

“Paul escaped.”

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

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

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

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

“Now we can begin collaboration,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She nodded.

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

“Has it been raining all afternoon?”

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

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

“I love you, too.”

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

“You know how the language works now?”

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

“Then we have to do that.”

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

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

“That’s what we must change.”

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

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

“What?”

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

“You mean he can do it?”

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

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The Resurrection: Chapter 24 – Something for All

**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.**

After lunch, Arnie and Alix went in the supply coach to buy more grout, some crushed limestone and pea gravel for Staash. The variety delighted the Sakum’mal. Hw washed it down with a gallon and a half of water. Still, Cristina was gravely concerned for the sand-morph’s health. The relatively dry environment of humans was extremely bad for him.

Alix picked up a humidifier while they were out and positioned it near to Staash. He said it helped but Alix doubted it was enough humanity. Staash loved the dampness found in musty caves, something no human dwelling could imitate for long without producing mildew that was harmful for humans. It made him wonder how the two species could really ever share the world, which was Cristina’s overall goal.

Arnie went back to the house to fetch everyone to share the dinner Emma had spent most of the afternoon preparing, a roast with assorted vegetables and fruit and garden salad. Afterward, Everyone else bused their tables, while Arnie and Alix swept the floors. Chase and Neville mopped them. All four of them wiped down the tables and made everything in the front room nice and clean for Emma and Arnie in the morning.

The ladies rinsed the pots, pans, dishes cups, saucers, bowls, glasses and flatware before loading it into the dishwasher to be sterilized to the city code. Emma added detergent, programmed the timer and activated the machine. While the dishes were washing, they cleaned, swept and mopped the kitchen, wiped down the counters and, in the end, helped the men carry out the trash to load it into the matter reactor to be converted into energy and stored in the batteries to supplement the energy needs of the building.

When the dishes were finished, everyone put them away. Then both Emma and Arnie thanked everyone or their kind, considerate help.  After saying goodbye to Cristina and Alix, Arnie took everyone but Emma home in the supply coach. Emma stayed after for a few minutes to get the place ready for the next day’s business before she took her private coach home for the night.

Alix ensured everything was locked up while Cristina joined Staash upstairs. When he had shut off all the lights downstairs, Alix joined them. The Sakum’mal was sitting on the end of the couch, staring blankly off into space while Cristina was taking a shower. The world viewer was switched off, so he did not even have that to focus on. It seemed very strange. It did not seem normal even for what little they understood about one another.

“Are you okay?” Alix asked him.

“What difference?”

“What do you mean?”

“Here or not, what difference?” Staash attempted to clarify.

“We care about you,” Alix said. “Otherwise we would have never brought you here.”

“Caring made separate my kind. Now, last Sakum’mal survivor. All colonies dead. Staash not belong here. Nice and polite friends, Staash perform. They thank me. Nice, but Staash different. Never be human. Not want different. Alix never Sakum’mal. Not wait either.”

“You’re here to foster better understanding.”

“What point? Sakum’malien dead. All dead.”

Cristina emerged form the shower with a towel wrapped around her. Having overheard the last part of the conversation she was emotionally touch, wiping a tear away with the back of her hand.

Alix looked at Cristina who seemed to have nothing immediately ready to say. Then he spoke. “I can fix some of that, you know.”

“Staash appreciate effort.”

“Then what’s the issue?” Alix asked.

Staash stared at Alix for several moments then, Alix not Staash looked away.

“Okay, I get it,” Alix broke the silence. “There has to be a better answer, a greater solution that allows everyone who died eighty years ago to live and produce offspring. Even you could have some children and grandchildren by now.”

“Produce children not necessity for Staash,” he said. “Other Sakum’malien vital to peace and existence. Sakum’malien social more than humans. Hermit concept only human. Barely understand. Exile worse than death, friends and family forever away.”

“They did that to you and yet you want to go back?”

Staash lowered his eyes. “You are friend but not Sakum’mal. Cristina speaks language. but not Sakum’mal.”

“We love and respect you,” Cristina said. “I admire your gift of poetry.”

“Sakum’malien no think Staash poetry special.”

“Be that as it may, it was amazing to me,” she said.

“You liked it that much?”

Cristina responded with a smile.

“Arnie did too. Emma, Neville and Mary were very impressed. Chase and Julie cried, too – same as me. Everyone was entertained,” Cristina said.

“Staash thanks all. Feel appreciation. Not what Staash really need.”

“Did the Sakum’malien ever appreciate your poetry?” Alix asked.

“My kind, have hope. Always hope.”

Alix nodded. “I can take you back there, anywhere, anytime you want, even before you ever met us. Between Cristina and me, I think we can make it so you’ll never remember any of this or even know in five days you and everyone else will die.”

“Staash prefer know. Told others. Not believe. Staash outsider, different…”

“You would die, too,” Alix said. “Same as it was before Cristina and I came and met you.”

Staash slowly nodded his head. He knew that sobering assessment was correct. He hung his head and after a time he began to sob after his fashion, feeling sorry for himself and his plight.

Alix looked to Cristina for some brave words of encouragement but she was as tapped out as he. Staash’s situation touched them both in a way they could never think of subjecting him to his original fate.

Suddenly Staash looked up, appearing inspired. “Cristina come warn everyone. Make message credible now.”

Cristina looked toward Alix and shrugged. Certainly it was a thought that had occurred to them before and they attempted it, but maybe Staash knew something they did not about communicating to the masses of his kind. If such a thing were possible it made a good deal of sense. Of course, Cristina would be the logical one. She understood and spoke some of Staash’s language. But she would need Alix to go there and return.

There was the lingering question that haunted them before, what sort of world would they return to if the Sakum’malien survived the sterilization of the planet?

“We need to think this through,” Cristina said in response to Staash’s cold, seemingly emotionless stare.

“What point parading Staash?” the Sakum’mal asked. “Only one here now, ever! No other come. Resurrection dead ones pointless.”

“If we return him and help him prove to the others…” Alix began.

“They wouldn’t listen before. What if they won’t listen at all, ever?”

“They have to,” Alix said.

Cristina went into the kitchen and poured a glass of cold water from the pitcher in the refrigerator. “I need to learn Sakum’malien,” Cristina said before sipping from the glass. After downing the entire glass she continued, “I need to be fluent in it to deliver a message.”

Staash stood, coming toward her, his eyes pierced her soul as he said, “We start right now, then.”

Cristina pursed her lips. “I do not learn as quickly as you do.”

“Begin now, finish sooner,” Staash replied eagerly.

“Unlike you I cannot speak with multiple, simultaneous voices. As you already appreciate, your language is more like what we call music. But each of you is like a small choir. Do you understand?”

“Much Sakum’malien pretty only, meaning little. Leaders speak, nice sound, empty.”

Alix laughed. “Politicians are the same, regardless of the species.”

Cristina smiled. “So I don’t have to sound exactly like you.”

“Close enough good.”

“Even so there is another element that I cannot even begin to express. In order to even attempt to speak it I would have to have several instruments covering the tones I cannot reach with my vocal range alone.”

“We need the band, then,” Alix said.

“I thought about that before. I cannot begin to fathom how to reproduce it though, something that is so natural to Staash that he ignores like we use articles in speech to make the metering flow properly in the cadence of our speech.”

“He usually ignores them in his English.”

“He knows they serve not purpose to the meaning and our metering is as alien to him as our words – more so actually. Sakum’malien has a different rhythm.”

“I would have to make several trips and frankly taking you there was enough but bringing you and Staash back wore me out.”

“I know,” Cristina sympathized.

“It’s maybe possible to take everyone there, but all our equipment? Besides that, how would we power everything?”

“It would be unfathomably complicated,” Cristina agreed.

“We could record our band performing the instrumentals and vocals,” Alix suggested, and then responded in kind to the smile that brightened Cristina’s face. “Use overdubs on the vocals so that all you need to do is sing the last part as the lead.”

“Okay, then nothing really changes all that much. We go to New Milan, just as we planned. Except, instead of parading Staash around for a media circus–”

“That the Colonial Authority would probably discredit anyway,” Alix interjected.

“Yes, well Staash can help me write the music to approximate the voices that I need to communicate the warning to the Sakum’malien. When the band has recorded it we take the recording and a portable player with us when we return to Staash’s home.”

“It’s a great plan,” Alix approved.

“If we succeed,” Cristina began, but then paused for a long, thoughtful time.

“Does that change our lives?” Alix asked the question she could not immediately answer and did not want to contemplate.

After several lingering moments she finally responded. “The real question is when we come back will the world be different?” She finally found the nerve to express her greatest personal reservation. “ If what we do is important enough, what happens to us doesn’t matter.”

Alix looked into her eyes, “If I’m with you nothing will change. What is shared now between us, that’s inviolate.”

“Are you sure?’

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Alix said. “We’re connected by our souls. How can it be different than it is. Just the situation changes, you know?”

“I don’t want to lose you,” Cristina said.

“I would die before I let you get away,” he said to her. “As for everything else, who knows? I suppose it’ll depend on how many of the Sakum’malien listen and survive the sterilization.”

Staash did not understand every word that Alix and Cristina were exchanging but just enough. “You take me back, now?” Staash requested asked.

“Not yet,” Cristina said. “Alix can take you back anytime and it can be just like you never left if that’s what you prefer. So that’s not an issue.”

“Others see Staash away. Then return. Otherwise no one believes.”

Cristina nodded, conceding the point.

“You and I have a song to write, a message to the Sakum’malien warning them of the impending disaster. Then we will teach the music to our band so we can record the music, making it sound as close as possible to what your language sounds like.”

Staash understood but also held out some reservation because there were parts of the language that could not be reproduced in any way by a human, as they exceeded the spectrum that a human could perceive. They would have to address that if it turned out to be necessary. It was a common enough element of their language but sometimes the same or very similar messages could be delivered without the use of the higher forms.

Regardless of the challenges ahead, Staash was eager to begin. He immediately went to the table and sat down, waving Cristina over toward him. “Learn everything Sakum’malien,” he said.

“I want to but what I need right now is to learn a message to give to those you left behind.”

Staash nodded. “Human speak but speak not with words alone. Body talks as well.”

“Of course. Most of what we say to one another is through observation of gestures and what we even call body language.”

“Sakum’malien and human not so different,” Staash revealed, then focusing on her eyes he linked to her telepathically. “In mass communication, the physical element is added. Mathematics is part of this, positioning and angles of bodies speak volumes to the masses that observe, even to the point that the message is very different than what others that do not perceive the fullness of the expression can never know.”

Cristina stared at him even as her mind raced with the possibilities of what he had just revealed. She tried to fathom how it was possible, but then, Staash turned toward her and uttered a simple phrase in his language, a phrase that involved the entire spectrum of expression for him. Suddenly she understood how the language fit together into one complete form of expression. It was compact and ingenuously simple. Her real challenge was figuring out how to record a message of the same clarity and delivering it with the same impact.

 

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The Resurrection: Chapter 19 – Penetration

**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.**

After fixing something for Cristina and Alix to eat, Slahl’yukim told them what his kind ate, though he insisted he was not hungry. It was just as well as Dom didn’t know where he would obtain different types of gravel at that time of night

Dom handled everything else he could. Slahl’yukim’s ID implant and payment wand, were linked a fictitious database to populate fields establishing a history that would not be suspected if it were brought up in a cursory check of credentials. For the sake of human identity, the sand-morph was named Stanislaus ‘Staash’ Stanokowski’. It seemed to fit the massive stature of the beast, giving him a good, solid Polish name that happened to be something Cristina suggested in reference to the stuffed animal she and Alix found when they were cleaning the apartment above the coffee shop.

Raven gave Cristina detailed views and directions for where the authorities were keeping Paul. He arranged for Dom to issue them temporary visitation privileges under their assumed identities.

She was determined to find her brother and if possible liberate him but that was no longer her overriding priority. Her immediate focus was on Slahl’yukim, who Alix was already calling ‘Staash’. If for no other reason than it was easier to say and remember. The Sakum’mal seemed to like his new name.

Once everything was completed, Cristina hugged Raven and thanked him yet again for helping. But then as she started to pull away he resisted, “You know that now I’m fascinated by this adventure. That’s the only reason I’m moderately participating.”

“We’ll see if what turns out is as entertaining as you anticipate.”

“Yes, we will,” Raven said. “You cannot imagine the variables you’ve thrown into possible courses of the immediate future. Now, I have a lot of new niches in potential reality to explore.”

As Cristina headed toward the others, she turned back and faced Raven. “You know I wanted to use all this time to write some songs for the band’s next recording session.”

“You have a wealth of experience to draw from. The writing may even come easier once you find the time.”

She smiled. “Regardless of how this turns out, thank you. When I first met you I never realized we would ever become friends.”

“Usually couriers never see their charges after the delivery of the orb.”

“Well, you have always been here for me and I appreciate it.”

“It’s never been convenient, but it’s always been interesting,” Raven told her as he embraced her yet again. Then he looked down. “It will be a very long time before we can ever meet again.”

“You know this?”

“It’s a cruel certainty of my perception.”

“How long?”

“Long enough for it to matter to either of us,” he said.

Cristina looked to Alix and Dom, then back to Raven. “So, this is farewell, not goodbye.”

“Yes,” Raven said. “If you need to cling to that hope.”

“I do.”

“You are a charmer. You could go anywhere and be exactly who and what you are. And yet, you are sincere, always the same person you’ve ever been. You have the gift, Cristina. You’re the focal point. Of all those with the attributes, you have the balance and grace to make all of it work. It’s instinctive perhaps but it’s there. Paul should have learned from you.”

“Well, that was hard for us to do living on opposite sides of the continent.”

“It was a wasted effort, breaking him out…”

“No, not really. The local resistance is still at large. That’s the positive that comes from what you did. Paul was instrumental in their escape. But he became the authorities total focus.”

Outside the air was not quite as dry as it had been in Raven’s study. Even so Dom had packed a large quantity of water for Staash, just in case.

The trio descended the hill toward the Starport stop and waited for a few minutes. When the coach arrived Staash was a little wary of boarding the coach at first but then he received non-verbal reassurances from Cristina that it was very safe and he boarded just ahead of Alix. As was the usual case the coach was virtually empty. But by the time they reached ‘the crosstown’ stop they picked up a few more passengers.

‘The crosstown’ coach was half-full. It had much to do with the time of night. The heavy influx of people toward the downtown area was over for the night, probably until morning. With the pickups and drop-offs the number of passengers never exceeded half-capacity.

Staash peered out from beneath the hood of his trench coat, appraising the variety of people and their appearances, beginning to appreciate the diversity of human appearance. It troubled him as much as it intrigued him. He was not sure Cristina’s plan would work. He was putting his faith in her. Really, his life was under her control.

Why was he doing this? Was it for the sake of the adventure? Who would he ever tell about this experience? Everyone he knew was already dead and had been for a period that Cristina termed eighty years, something just slightly less than an average human’s lifetime – as he understood it. It was significant in a way. What human was yet alive that might have made the decisions. Anyone who was still alive would have been a relatively young human – an infant they were called – and therefore would not have had such authority at the time anyway.

Raven seemed very different compared to Cristina and Alix. Some of it was attributable to age. From that already Staash learned humans grow tired and feeble with age, much the same as the Sakum’malien. Raven defied that. He was far older than what Cristina had indicated was normal. Staash could tell. He had tried to rectify his lack of knowledge, but Raven resisted his mental probes. What he knew was he was more like the servant called Dom than Cristina or Alix – they were not really human either, but at least they were the result of a natural process of reproduction.

As Staash sat quietly mulling over everything that happened he tried to piece together the words fitting properly to flow as his vocalized thought. He had been listening to Cristina and Alix. He listened to Raven and even Dom back at the estate. There was a rhythm and meter to the language, which he recognized from his knowledge of how poetry worked. It was not the meter Sakum’malien preferred, but some poetry had been composed utilizing the exact same meter and rhythm as the language Cristina was teaching him.

The spoken Sakum’malien language employed a natural meter consistent with the underlying harmony of its delivery. Yet the language was seldom uttered except for infrequent mass oration or, more frequently, mass entertainment. Interpersonal communication was always telepathic. It fact it was considered at least rude but, often, an unforgivable insult to speak directly to one Sakum’mal. It was tantamount to presuming the lack of intelligence to communicate in the normal, preferred way.

For that reason Staash fought the first inclination to think humans were natively rude and inconsiderate. Raven mentioned privacy as if it were more important than communication. It was antithetical as a concept for a Sakum’mal. Among his kind, nothing was more important than communication. It fostered understanding without which there would be no peace. As much as the humans pretended to be seeking peace, Staash decided it was their need for privacy that prevented it.

Staash consumed water from one of the several flasks Dom provided for him. It refreshed him, restoring the necessary moisture to his palate. Humans seemed to prefer a much drier, less humid environment than the Sakum’malien. He projected the comment mentally to Cristina whose answer was particularly odd. She claimed that humans adapt to a variety of environments, but perhaps, they preferred warm and relatively dry. Staash was trying to understand humans and their world but he kept coming upon gaps, mysteries that, even after Cristina tried to explain them, still left him wanting.

He stared out the window of the coach at the city as it passed by outside the coach. He wondered at the technologies involved and why humans preferred to be above ground. Surely they were very, very different from the Sakum’malien.

He was immersed in thought when Cristina nudged him, indicating that they had reached a point where they needed to exit the coach. As they stood the coach stopped. The three of them descended from the coach and out onto the curb. She turned to Staash and through telepathy explained that they were going to be taking him to a safe place where he could stay and be more comfortable. It wasn’t far, only a few blocks.

Once she had set out for the coffee shop Cristina paused, turned back to encourage Staash. She could tell that he was overwhelmed and did not understand the necessity of anything they were doing, especially why they were eventually going to seek freedom for her brother. She attempted to explain but the concepts she attempted to covey were alien to Staash. “How do you deal with criminals?” she finally projected to him.

“‘Criminals’ means what?” Staash asked aloud.

“Surely there are those of your kind who break laws or do things deemed harmful to others and society.”

“Thalimuv,” Staash rendered as best he could in utterance.

Cristina frowned, “I think that concept is more like ‘an outcast’. Someone who was exiled.”

“No more belong anywhere. Alone always.”

“We restrict freedom,” Alix said. “For some that is much worse than exile.”

“Different ways,” Staash said.

Cristina looked at Staash. “My brother is inside a prison.”

“At least we think that he is,” Alix said. “We could be wrong. That’s why we want to check it out first thing tomorrow.”

“Staash go with?”

“It will be best for you to wait for us.”

“Wait?”

“We have an apartment at out disposal,” Cristina explained, projecting what she needed to so that Staash understood her better. “We’ll stay there tonight. Tomorrow Alix and I will go and you will stay in the apartment.”

“Staash good. Me wait Cristina and Alix.”

Alix entered the coffee shop first, then Cristina and Staash. The coffee shop was closed, of course. Alix located the lights and clicked them on until the others ascended the stairs and entered the apartment. Then Alix returned to lock the front door and turned off the lights as he went upstairs.

Once he was in the apartment, he saw that Cristina was already demonstrating world viewer for Staash. From the sand-morph’s responses he seemed impressed. Cristina explained through telepathy that he was watching programming from their city as well as other cities on the planet.

“Cristina city where?”

“New Milan,” she pointed to one of the preview monitors. “Here, this is an entertainment channel from my home city, our home city. Alix is from New Milan, too. Where we found you is close to where Haven which is there.”

Staash nodded. “Staash home.”

“Yeah, in a warped way, you are,” Alix confirmed from behind.

“Sit down,” Cristina said to Staash. He complied and as Alix handed the remote to him, he was duly impressed with how rapidly he learned how to use the device. He suspected Staash considered the technology archaic and the remote device a mere toy.

Cristina was beginning to appreciate the complexities of Sakum’malien culture from what she already assimilated from Staash.

“If you watch world viewer, you can learn how to speak,” Cristina said. “Listen and learn.”

Staash looked at her, “You leaving?”

“In the morning, we have to find my brother. We are going to rest now.”

“Staash help. Free Paul.”

“Okay,” Cristina said. “You like your new name?”

“Staash like,” he said. “Simple name, uncomplicated.”

“Staash, Alix and I are going to sleep. You can rest as well. Or you may watch the world viewer. When we wake in the morning. I’ll find something for you to eat. There is water. Let me show you.” She led the way into the kitchen and demonstrated. “The glasses are right here.” she obtained one. This one can be yours. If you get thirsty, you drink. Okay?”

Staash nodded.

“We are going to shower and go to bed.”

“Staash watch. Learn much.”

Periodically, throughout the night, Staash drank water. He watched world viewer, sampling channels. Everything interested him at first. He rested on the couch. Though he did not require sleep as a human would, he did experience a cycle similar to a dream state. During this the images in his mind were of his home world, where he spent his early years, the place he truly wanted to be.

In the early morning, when the Sakum’mal roused, immediately he consumed several glasses of water. Resuming his scanning of the channels on world viewer, he found one of the entertainment offerings of particular interest, a theatrical production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Although he did not understand it, it fascinated him.

When Cristina woke she went to the bathroom for necessary relief, then came into the living room to check on Staash. “You like this?”

“This interests,” he replied. “Older language is?”

“Yes, it is an archaic form or the language you are learning.”

He nodded.

“I’m impressed.”

“Human poetry.”

“Yes, it is, although it is performed as a play, it is beautifully written poetry.”

“Staash likes.” He smiled after his fashion. “All humans like?”

“Some, not all.”

“Human Sakum’malien difference little. Staash like. Staash strange.”

“Being different is not a bad thing, Staash. I’ve been different for all my life. If you embrace the difference and use it do distinction others appreciate uniqueness – sometimes.”

Staash nodded. “Cristina smart.”

“I don’t know about that. I’m different, though.” She smiled.

“Humans more different, like Cristina better.”

She grappled with what he was attempting to convey, then having received a telepathic impression of his desired meaning, she grinned, “Thank you Staash. That is sweet. But I think if everyone was like me, the world would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it?”

“For Cristina, not others.”

She reached out and touched the rough surface of his head. “I have to get ready. We’re going to see if we can find Paul. You’ll be here by yourself.”

Staash nodded. “Watch, listen, learn.”

“You’re doing very well.”

By then Alix had finished taking care of part of his morning ritual. He was in the surveying the refrigerator for the makings of breakfast, something different than what they’d had before. Cristina joined him, kissing his cheek as she came up from behind.

“How’s our friend?”

“Learning a lot, actually.”

“From watching Shakespeare?” Having searched the cupboards as well, he assembled the ingredients for making pancakes.

“Actually, maybe that is the best way to begin to understand humans, at least our artistic side. That’s our best side, for certain.”

“He’s beyond most humans, then,” Alix said as he obtained a mixing bowl, a whisk and a large mixing spoon. “I remember suffering through Hamlet in school.”

“I had a very good teacher in high school. We studied the period of Shakespeare and Elizabethan culture. I think that’s the only way to bring it to life for someone.”

“Staash seems to be doing fine.”

“He knows it is poetry.”

Alix laughed. “That’s a good start. Okay, I’m taking care of breakfast for us. He’s going to be the challenge.”

“I have some ideas. I may need your help, though.”

“You go ahead and do what you need to do to get ready, I’ll do this and then we can eat. I’ll take my turn getting ready when you’re all done.”

She kissed him. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, hon.”

By the time Cristina was partially ready for their outing, breakfast was served. When they were finished, Cristina opened the door to the attic and after a few minutes of exploring, she returned to ask for Alix’s assistance. “There is a bag of tile grout in there. I guess it’s putting tile on the bathroom walls. I don’t know how much Staash eats, but that is pretty-much exactly what he considers food.”

“Really?”

She nodded.

“I guess that would wake sense.”

“If you can bring it in and set it on the table. I’ll see if he needs anything else?”

After several minutes of a mental conversation, during which both Staash and Cristina nodded several times, Staash sat at the table. Using a ladle, she filled a bowl with grout and provided a serving spoon to the sand-morph. At first he looked at it. Mentally she provided him with instruction for the use of a spoon. He gurgled, which she had learned as a laugh. Then he leaned over the bowl and licked a rough-surfaced tongue into the contents. Then he looked up and nodded.

“Is it good?”

“Excellent.”

While Staash continued to eat, both Alix and Cristina finished getting ready. By then, they hard the tell-tale noises from the coffee shop indicating Arnie and Emma had arrived to begin their day.

“How are we going to break the news to them about Staash?” Alix asked.

“I’ll tell them we have a guest and he’s resting. That should cover us for the morning, anyway.”

“They’re going to want to meet him.”

“I want them to. They’ll be our first trial.”

“Are you serious?”

“The world needs to meet him sometime, right.”

Alix shrugged.

“It’ll be fine. You’ll see. Who wouldn’t love him. He even sort of resembles the stuff animal.”

“Maybe in a way. They’re almost the same color, anyway.”

Cristina explained to Staash once again what their plans were for the morning. “We’ll be back as soon as we can. Until then stay here and don’t go anywhere else. I’ll tell the people downstairs that you just arrived from Haven and you’re resting. They are very nice people. They won’t disturb you.”

“Staash watch.” He gestured toward the screen. “Hamlet next. I learn.”

“Yes, that is the best thing for you to do.”

Once Alix and Cristina were comfortable that Staash was safe and understood what was going on, they set out together, pausing briefly for Cristina to explain the cover story for Staash to Emma and Arnie. She told her that Staash had traveled all night and all day and needed some rest. Emma understood and even promised to be very careful of the noise in the kitchen with the pots and pans. Cristina said that Staash intended to sleep on the couch while having world viewer in the background as noise so that would cover the noise. Anyway the breakfast rush was about to begin and already the coffee shop had a few customers.

“Why will you be back?”

“Hopefully by noon.”

“I’ll make something for everyone to eat. I’m sure your guest will be hungry.”

“He just ate. I think he’ll sleep all morning, maybe into the afternoon.”

“I’ll make some sandwiches, and a fruit salad,” Emma said. “I’ll keep everything down here for your return.”

Cristina smiled. “You’re really too good to us.”

“You take care of what you have to do, honey. I’ll have something waiting for you when you return.”

It was a little more than a block to the Starport stop where they could board ‘the crosstown’ coach. From there, riding east to the far side southern part of the city, according to Raven, the place they were seeking was a quick walk directly south toward the edge of the dome.

Alix and Cristina rounded the corner of a building, the last one on the street before the intersection with the city’s ‘loop’, a thoroughfare wrapping around the entire city at the furthest extent of any commercial buildings. It was also the end of any private residences as only Colonial Authority complexes and public transportation buildings like the railcar stations could be constructed near the security track that was just inside the edge of the dome’s foundation.

The support columns for the dome itself were anchored deep into the ground within the security track and, for that reason alone, it was an area heavily defended against any potential sabotage or terrorist acts aimed at damaging the dome. Even if it had been decades since there was any suspected conspiracy against the basic structures or utilities of any city in the world the Colonial Authority continued stating the potential as a real concern. It was the justification for Security Agency’s existence as well as its expansion over the past few years.

Paranoia prevailed with the upper echelons of the Colonial Authority’s organizational structure. In the early days of Pravda, an attack on any of the dome supports might have ruptured a seal allowing massive amounts of di-hydrogen sulfide or even worse poisons into the city’s air supply. Although the risks breathing the air outside the dome was not as great anymore, security was still enforced with at least the same vigor. For most citizens, it was part of their reality and security concerns were well incorporated into their daily routine.

In the history of Pravda there had been few direct attacks on any of the cities’ dome structures, utilities or basic services. However, the same could not be said of other colonies. The Colonial Authority credited their preparation and expectations from the earliest days of the colonization of Pravda for the level of security and the maintenance of peace and order. Constant vigilance was cited as the reason the safety of all citizens.

As Alix crossed the loop directly behind Cristina, he studied the sprawling complex of the maximum-security compound for the local regiment of the Colonial Authority Peace Enforcement Division, an instrument of the Security Agency. It was an imposing edifice, a high fence circles – obviously electrified and crowned with spirals of razor-sharp, super-concertina wire. Between the outer and inner fences was a gap wide enough for security vehicles to patrol. The compounds secondary fence, though not electrified was crowed with the same razor wire as that used around the perimeter.

Within the double fence of the compound was the two-story building. On the roof at each corner of the rectangle and in the middle of each of the longer sides, were towers staffed with heavily armed guards. As Alix and Cristina observed, two guards with robotic ‘guard dogs’ passed one another at the apparent gates. Moments later other guards passed each other as well. This formidable fortress, somehow, they expected to enter.

Cristina appeared to be unfazed and undaunted. She confidently approached the outer security checkpoint and smiled as her eyes met those of the guard.

“State your business,” the guard challenged.

“I’m here to meet with a prisoner who may have information that is vital to my research.”

“Well that narrows it down a lot,” the guard said with some sarcasm. “Who’s he?” He asked as he indicated Alix.

“He’s my assistant,” Cristina said.

The guard presented an electronic pad for them to sign in and then he scanned their ID chips and the clearance came back positive.

He handed each of them a badge that clipped on to their garments. “Wear these temporary badges everywhere you go inside. There are some areas that are restricted beyond temporary badge access. You will need an administrator to escort you if you have to go there. Is that understood?”

“It’s normal procedure,” Cristina said.

“Most people with your level of clearance are used to it,” the guard said. Once Cristina and Alix had clipped on the badges, they were clicked through the small gate and descended a ramp into a tunnel that passed beneath the gap between the two fences. When they reached the far end, at the inner gate another guard checked their ID scan and their temporary badges, then once he was confident that everything was appropriate he clicked the lock and allowed them into the inner compound.

Cristina turned back to the guard, “I have never been here before. Is the administration office where it normally is?”

“I’m afraid this facility is the older design,” the guard said. “I have never seen the other facilities so I’m not sure what you are accustomed to. Go inside to the first door and the administration office is the third door to the right. I can call ahead if you are meeting someone in particular.”

“They’re expecting us,” Alix said.

“Good.” The guard smiled, allowing them to pass.

Cristina seemed perturbed at Alix. “What?” he turned to ask.

“I had him explaining everything,” Cristina whispered.

“You would not be here if someone did not know you were coming. Your asking about the layout inside was nearly suspect. Every one of these facilities is nearly identical. We lucked out that this one is a bit different.”

“How do you know that?”

Alix smiled, “I have friends who were not saints as kids and when they became adults they were incarcerated in facilities exactly like this.”

Cristina reached for the door handle but the door opened as someone was exiting the building. He gave a cursory scan to Alix and then to Cristina, not their temporary badges but he immediately held the door open for them. “Sometimes it’s a pain getting inside with the temporary badges,” he offered almost as an apology.

“We appreciate your help,” Alix said.

“No problem,” he said as he went on his way.

Once inside the outermost door, Alix grabbed Cristina’s shoulders from behind and turned her around, “You have not told me our plans.”

“I’ve been doing this on the fly.”

“Great!” he said with sarcasm.

“Do you have a better solution?”

“Look, at least I’ve been inside of one of these hellholes. Maybe I should take the lead.”

“Be my guest.”

“Come on,” he said as he removed his temporary badge and waved it across a scanner to open the inner security door. He pushed it open and held it for her to pass by. Then he escorted her into the administration office.

The desk attendant looked up at them as they entered. There was no enthusiasm and very little life expressed in her actions or her voice as she asked, “Can I help you?”

“You may,” Alix said, couching a correction of her grammar in his response, not that he expected her to pick up on it and subsequently put it to use. “We have questions that we need to ask one of your prisoners.”

“Inmate or detainee?” she asked.

“Detainee,” Alix said.

“Name?”

“Paul,” Cristina interjected. “ Scalero. Paul Scalero.”

She typed in the necessary information to locate the detainee then printed out a pass. “He is in Block 08, Section 092 on the second floor, cell number 467. This is a permit. Give this to the block guard and he will escort you to the cell.”

“Thank you,” Alix said.

“Don’t mention it,” the attendant said, flashing a smile as if she were flirting with him. Alix ignored the overture. Cristina did not.

Alix took the permit in hand and turned toward Cristina who was smiling even as she wrapped her arm around his. “You did that very well,” she said as they exited the office and went back into the hall.

“I paid attention every time I visited my friends.”

“Well, maybe you should lead on, then,” she said as they started down the hallway toward the central security checkpoint. Alix held up the pass there and was directed to an elevator for the second floor. When they arrived on the second floor they found the guard post for Block 08 and again presented the permit. They were clicked through to a staging area where another guard scanned them for weapons or contraband and then, along with a female guard for Cristina they frisked them. Finally they were passed through to Section 092, which was a special security area requiring them to be scanned again for anything sharp including plastic articles with sharp edges. Checked through, they were given an escort to cell number 467.”

The escort pressed a sequence of number then pressed his thumb into a scanner and the multiple locks of the door opened one after another. Automatically it swung back on its hinges to allow both Alix and Cristina to enter. “When you are ready to leave just say ‘we are ready to leave’. We monitor all conversations, of course.”

Cristina nodded. Alix vocalized his understanding with, “Fine.”

When the door was closed behind them Paul still sat precisely where he had before, staring at the wall, seemingly obviously to having another visitor.

Knowing to take care of what she said, she approached. She sensed he was heavily sedated, virtually unaware of their presences. Due to the electronic fields broadcast into the cell she needed to gain Paul’s attention, see his eyes, and have physical contact to have any hope of communicating telepathically with him. Thus far he was unaware of her. She sat across the table from him, taking his hand in hers, she projected a thought. Paul turned his dreary, drugged eyes toward her, fighting to perceive her through the mental haze. But at least he smiled, signaling he knew she was there.

“Are they beating you?” she projected her question into his mind.

After a few seconds she shook his head. “Beating, no.”

“I wish I could say it is good to see you,” she said aloud. “But not like this.”

“Under these circumstances I would prefer to be left alone.”

“We have retrieved a Sakum’malien,” Cristina projected. “That is what the sand-morphs call themselves.”

Paul showed no emotion, not even the mildest surprise.

“I thought it might change things, coming here,” she expressed verbally.

“You are well?”

“I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do,” Cristina responded.

“I don’t want to know what you plan to do. They will extract it from me eventually.” Paul said telepathically.

“I thought you should, though.”

Paul turned away. “Now you come here too. It is really very cruel.” Then added telepathically. “They sent mother here to try to convince me to cooperate with them.”

“Our mother?”

“She is alive; you didn’t know?”

“It’s good to see you, all the same,” he verbalized. “You look like her, you know.”

Cristina stared at him. “Are you certain it was her?”

“I was skeptical at first.” Then verbally, “Not that it really matters anymore.” He met his sister’s eyes. “I believe it was her. We embraced I felt the connection.”

“It always matters,” She spoke. Then silently continued. “Maybe they know how to fabricate something to compensate even for that emotional connection.”

“I guess I can still choose to believe what I want,” he said. “It was really her.”

Cristina nodded. “Why the suspicion of lies? Why conceal her from us for all this time?”

“You tell me.” He turned away. “Obviously, you know more about what’s going on than I do. You have at least some granted access.”

“Is that what you believe?”

“How else could you get the necessary permissions to be here?”

Cristina looked at Alix, “He is the one who made it possible.”

Paul grabbed her hand again. “To retrieve one of the sand-morphs?”

“Yes.”

“I suppose I should be considerate and express some sort of gratitude.”

“I expect nothing,” Alix said.

“Then you will never be disappointed,” Paul said. “Well, at least now there is some kind of proof.”

“It changes everything.”

“It changes nothing,” Paul reacted. The he responded, “My arraignment is next week. I’m to be charged with multiple assaults, batteries, and murders – oh and also sedition, treason and a possible terrorism charge thrown in for good measure, to justify things they did to me before. Perhaps they’ll throw in some unsolved mysteries. Pinning anything on me should be easy.’

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’m destined to be the fall guy, the fundamental and necessary scapegoat. As prisoners go, I’m the pick of the litter. Whoever prosecutes me will earn bonus points for every charge successfully brought to conviction.” He paused to project. “Of course nothing will ever be offered in evidence about the torture that prompted my extreme response. No one will ever enter as evidence that I could have killed everyone but did not. I demonstrated amazing restraint, really.”

“Of course, they won’t allow that.”

“Only those who fired a weapon at me were attacked. Some died. I never wanted to kill anyone, but some people don’t deserve to live.”

“That’s not your judgment to make.”

“They invited the evil, it consumed them and eventually claimed them,” Paul said.  “Those who directly participated in my torture were killed. I even spared harming one agent because he was sympathetic to me after he understood what had been done to me. He was instrumental in my escape and so I did not harm him. I refuse to identify him or state the level of assistance he provided. It would be tantamount to ratting him out to the authorities – the only saint amongst all the legions of demons. He was the only one who seemed to have a real, beating heart inside of his chest. The rest were cruel and evil. That was how I dealt with the mass number of deaths.”

“Killing is never justified.”

“The world is a better place without the ones who died.”

“I want to help you but you are giving me very little to play with,” Cristina said.

“You expect a miracle? Maybe that’s why they sent mother here. She was supposed to persuade me into compromising, working a deal so they could spare my miserable life to exist in a cell like this one death comes borne of my nature and releases me from their prison. I have been at odds with my nature for longer than I have the Colonial Authority – all my life, in fact. This is nothing new and certainly there is a case for it being anticipated all along. I will never escape this hellhole or the solitary confinement that has been interrupted by mother’s visit and your coming here. Otherwise my only company had been the barber.”

“The barber?” Alix asked.

“It is what they call the new chief interrogator, the replacement for the one who – let’s say he – passed on. He takes his orders from someone higher up the food chain than anyone in this city. I have to say, he’s good, damned good. He works with a sharp razor,” Paul said as he pulled up his sleeves and pants legs to show the scars, some of them so very fresh that blood was still seeping into the bandages. “He has had me to the point of considering telling everything just to be able to die, just to have him drag his razor across my throat, severing my jugular. But I refuse to let him or anyone associated with them win. If they kill me, so be it. I will never betray anyone even though someone, at least one of my friends has obviously betrayed me.”

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The Resurrection: Chapter 18 – Unexpected Resurrection

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

It would not be an easy thing to conceal a Sakum’malien. Slahl’yukim was large by human standards. Not so much that he was tall as he was broad and as his body, to a large degree, consisted of silicon so his body had greater mass for its relative volume.

Bringing him back with them proved to be the simplest part of the task of integrating him into a future world that was the domain of humans. The three of them interlocked hands and for Alix it was really not more difficult than bringing Cristina along on his previous shifts.

They arrived almost exactly where he and Cristina had left, within a few centimeters actually. Dom’s calculations have been that precise. Alix was as duly impressed as he had been when they arrived in the past fairly close to a cave entrance where sand-morphs dwelled. Alix suspected Dom had his own agenda that was apart from Raven’s plans or anyone else’s for that matter. He could not quite peg Dom, except to say the android was not exactly what he seemed.

Cristina looked up at the estates’ bell rope. Alix didn’t need telepathy to tell what she was thinking. He reached up to tug on the rope. “He’ll be pissed because we probably just left.”

“Dom’s cordial, always. Anyway these are his coordinates,” Alix said. “We’re here on his schedule.”

He sensed Cristina was going to seek Raven’s advice if not help. Alix did not want to endure another session with Raven and really could not believe that Cristina did either. What they did was completely and utterly against what Raven believed was important. Why would he help them?

Yet there she was on the front porch, Slahl’yukim standing between her and Alix, looking around at the world, seeing it in the darkness. He started to disengage from their hands to go explore. Cristina must have communicated with him telepathically.

Did they do the right thing? Alix wondered. Slahl’yukim was lost and alone. He was bonding with Cristina, something that bothered Alix even if he refused to call it jealousy as the sand-morph had accused. Alix understood that he and Cristina were the alien’s only friends and only link to anything. Of course he would bond with her, become attached to her and she would tolerate him. Still it was disturbing.

When Alix had agreed to this adventure it was a very different situation. The story was very different as well. Now he understood that the Sakum’malien were not different from the humans. Both were invaders of the same world, competitors for the very same space. Humans won that contest. What was wrong and very different from the official story was that it now seemed apparent to Alix that the first humans had to know the Sakum’malien were there. The over-pressurizing of the caverns was defeated, something that was never reported.

Now it seemed it was even more of a conspiracy than anyone imagined. No wonder there was so much energy and effort expended to conceal the darkness of the human hearts who initiated the terraforming of Pravda. The pristine beauty promised was a distant dream. Perhaps all along, it was an unachievable lie. There would ever be the taint of the evil the first humans perpetrated against an alien race. The first alien race encountered as a direct result of their explorations humans exterminated.

Was colonizing Pravda that important to mankind’s survival? Was it worth the effort in light of the declining fertility rates and the inevitable extinction of mankind? Would mankind survive on the world they stole so violently as to terminate an entire race that was here before any human? What difference did it make that they were not indigenous? They were essentially transforming the world to suit their life form just as the humans were intending to do for the purposes of mankind.

Alix tugged n the bell rope again. Slahl’yukim kept looking around, touching surfaces and analyzing everything – like a kid, exploring.

Alix could appreciate the Sakum’malien was overwhelmed with the wonders of what he was seeing  – all of it very strange. He was intimidated, even frightened. There was so much around him that he did not understand. A couple of humans led him into a world dominated by humans, a world in which he was one of a kind. Knowing what humans did to his kind, he was one brave fellow.

The door opened and Dom tilted his head to one side.

“We’re back.”

Dom nodded. “You are late.”

“Well, we have been waiting here for a while,” Alix said.

“Welcome back,” he said even as he looked at the Sakum’malien. “As much as he does not wish to be disturbed, the Master must be alerted as to what you and Alix have accomplished.” Then he opened the door and bade them to remain in the foyer. Alix hurried toward the threshold as Dom held the front door open for him. “I trust the coordinates were sufficient.”

“They were impeccable,” Alix said. “As well you know.”

Dom even appeared to be resisting the urge to smile as he turned away and escorted Cristina to seek out Raven and his approval for audience.

Alix remained behind with Slahl’yukim. He did not enjoy his recent secondary importance to Cristina, but there was not much he could do. He understood the overall objective. He was not sure how they were going to pull it off but he knew he had to help Cristina.

Cristina was able to communicate directly with the sand-morph without any words. Perhaps she had explained Raven as best she could and the estate he lived in, as well as the conditions of the outside world. All along Slahl’yukim was rapidly acquiring the nuances of human language from her.

A few moments after Cristina had followed Dom down the hall toward Raven’s study, Slahl’yukim turned toward Alix and startled him. “Thank your understanding. Cristina special.”

“Yes, she is.”

“Learn quickly speak, not good yet,” he said. “Cristina teacher good.”

Alix looked into his eyes. “You understand what’s happening now?”

“Know happened. Understanding different. Some humans accept tragedy. Some not. You and Cristina want correct wrong. Slahl’yukim want change past.”

“We understand that. But changing the past changes our world, too. Perhaps we would not be together. Maybe we would not even be alive.”

Slahl’yukim forced the odd gesture of a nod he learned from Cristina. Alix assumed he intended it to mean the same thing it did for humans.

“There’s been a cover-up all along. I think most humans would not want what was done to have ever happened. But they were held in ignorance,” Alix said.

“She explain,” he said. “Want me speak tragedy my kind. Efforts impact short desire.”

“Cristina’s brother is imprisoned for his views and his desire to resurrect your kind from oblivion.”

“She explain much. I understand some. Do not understand dead to life. Maybe works humans. Not understand how.”

“We cannot bring our own kind back from the dead, But Paul, Cristina’s brother, and their organization believe it’s possible because your life form does not deteriorate after death as rapidly as ours and many of your kind were meticulously preserved in sealed coffins when they were discovered.”

“Know kill us, preserve us, why?”

“Not everyone knew. Someone discovered bodies and named you sand-morphs, because you were mostly sand by appearance and on the sensors that they used to probe for life forms. Yet you kind of had bodies.”

“How many preserve?”

“I don’t know. Paul would have better knowledge of that. I would guess thousands. But it could be more or less.”

“Intend parade embarrass authorities.”

“We don’t want this to become a circus. We want this to be meaningful and have a lasting impact.”

“Thank,” Slahl’yukim said. “Go back when?”

“When there’s been significant change and an interest in your form of life.”

“If not happen, then still go back?”

“I could take you back to die among your friends. I can take you back to before we met even, so maybe you would never know. I’m not sure how would work, but maybe it could happen. You would not know that five days later you and all of those around you would be dead.”

“Stay here one my kind.”

“Did you have a mate?”

“No one. Shun Slahl’yukim. Outcast, exile, heretic, poet, evil thoughts.”

“You should try writing music here, then. It sounds like you might fit in,” Alix laughed.

“You popular?”

“Me, not hardly. I was always shy. I mean, I perform on stage and all that, but I’m not the focus. Cristina’s the star.”

“She should.”

Alix laughed. “She’s amazing, by the way.”

“Suspect,” Slahl’yukim said. “Lucky human she loves.”

Alix smiled. “I must have a charmed life even if, lately, it has not seemed that way.”

“Intelligence, exotic. Touch mind not resist. Captive attention.”

“She has that gift and can do that to men on many levels.”

Slahl’yukim glowed, “Man that way least. Slahl’yukim too.”

Dom emerged from Raven’s study and waved toward Alix for them to advance. When Slahl’yukim and Alix passed through the door Dom closed it behind him, remaining outside.

“So this is what you’ve done,” Raven said to Alix. “You’ve circumvented the whole issue of resurrecting a demon from the past by just going there and capturing one.”

“Not capture,” Slahl’yukim said. “Come with.”

“He speaks?” Raven laughed, and then turned to accuse Cristina. “You taught him some words in English but not Italian?”

“You don’t speak Italian very well. I am sure he can render things as different languages like humans do. To him all human languages that I know would seem to be as one.”

“So this was the plan all along. Get the reclusive Raven involved in current world affairs.”

“No condemn Cristina. Intentions pure. Me no otherwise here .”

“The purity of her intentions is never in question,” Raven responded. “It’s the wisdom of her judgment that baffles me.”

Raven came forward and studied the alien for a few moments, but then he turned to Cristina and said, “If this is not handled right the Colonial Authority will discredit everything and put both you and Alix in prison. Likely as not, they would execute this alien. Worst case they would study him to excess and then execute him later on.”

“No kill me,” Slahl’yukim said.

Raven focused on the sand-morph’s apparent eyes for a moment. Afterwards he stepped back. “Cristina tells me you are a poet?”

“Yes.”

“I’m a writer but I suck at writing poetry,” Raven said. “I revere poets. I write non-fiction and histories, stories that are long enough to fill a book. I’m sure you are struggling to relate to something comparable in your experience.”

“Comparable. More successful. Poets rare find success.”

“Then the artistic community between our kinds does not differ all that much.

“Make world and characters pretend real.”

“You are able to create pictures in minds with words alone.”

“Poet emotion, moments capture.”

“Poets have a gift with words. Writers have a knack or maybe a talent if they are lucky,” Raven said.

Slahl’yukim glanced to Cristina while non-verbally communicating that he was uncomfortable in the radiant heat of the immediate environment. He claimed that it was too hot and far too dry, something that she found ironic considering his nature until she considered that they both shared the same, common essential component of life. For Slahl’yukim, to be absent of water was to revert to sand. For humans it was to revert to dust.

“That can be adjusted,” Cristina promised.

Raven seemed to have picked up on the non-verbal communication and poured out a glass of water for each of his guests. “It’s mostly cold. Dom brought it recently. I’m not sure whether your kind prefers water cold, warm or even hot,” Raven said.

“As offered,” Slahl’yukim said. “Any way.”

“I must say that Cristina has performed a miracle in such a short time teaching you many words of English.”

“He was a most willing pupil,” Cristina responded.

“Most non-native speakers consider English a difficult language to acquire. Many native speakers fail to acquire it fully,” Raven said.

“My language she gifted. Do no less learn hers.”

Raven smiled. “She has empathic and telepathic abilities.”

“No know terms.”

“She can feel what you feel and think what you think.”

Slahl’yukim smiled broadly. “Like me.” Then he glanced at her. She stood there being impatient and unappreciative of Raven’s comments.

Raven stared into his eyes then immediately rebuffed the alien’s fifth attempt to probe his mind. “Some humans will be weak or not even be aware of your attempts. Others of us will never permit it.”

“Understood,” Slahl’yukim said.

“The real reason any of us are here now is that we need to have a plan,” Cristina said.

“How are we going to break the news to the world?” Alix asked.

“More relevantly how do you break the news without having the Colonial Authority quash the effort?” Raven posed.

“This is a significant event. It is newsworthy and relevant,” Cristina stated.

“But no one wants to hear about it unless it is pitched to them in a personally relevant way,” Alix said.

“You understand the problem,” Raven said.

“I get it,” Alix said. “I really do. Most people don’t care about anything that’s going on around them as long as it doesn’t directly impose on their immediate plans of their overall life.”

“I believe you really do understand people,” Raven said.

“We need to focus on the entertainment value, the shock value, the potential to gather an audience and then we pitch for the mass support.”

Cristina smiled with pride as Alix demonstrated his level of enlightenment about managing the mass media.

“It will be a challenge. He’s newsworthy. Maybe he’s relevant. Most people are never going to relate to him or the story, though.”

“That’s why we transform the news into an event,” Cristina said.

“Well, despite the difficulty of your adventure and your best intentions, what you have done is create a circus sideshow: The Last Living Sand-morph. I’m sure he does not want to endure that moniker for the rest of his life.”

“All I wanted to do was show the world that the Colonial Authority has lied to us,” Cristina said.

“And that’s the reason your brother killed many, many agents?” Raven asked. “That’s the real issue you’re up against.”

“It was the Colonial Authority’s intransigence and lack of integrity in adherence to the regulations for creating a habitable world and the cover up that ensued.”

“That’s why Paul killed agents?”

“That’s where it began,” Cristina said.

“It’s far too complicated. The reason has to be pithy for the masses to understand it.”

“It was kill of be killed.”

“That’s cliché, but more along the lines of what you need.”

“I just know the truth. Paul killed to prevent further brutality in his interrogation and those of others. The agents routinely torture prisoners to obtain information,” Cristina said.

“I know that. He knows it. You know it. Alix knows. Hell, everyone who had ever been interrogated knows. The problem is how do you prove it and how do you get the message out to the masses?” Raven asked. “The Colonial Authority has no interest in giving you a forum for your message.”

“Look, I want to save Paul but at this point I do not know whether that is even possible. He has reached the bedrock of the pit he has dug for himself. And yet he continues to dig,” Raven said.

“Do you know where they will keep him once he is recaptured?”

“That inevitability already occurred, sometime yesterday.”

“No, you’re confused. We broke him out earlier today.”

“No that was two days ago.”

“What?”

“Dom must have given us coordinates so we could catch back up with when we should have been here…”

Raven shook his head. “You should pay more attention if you’re going to be traveling in time and space. It’s a big universe out there. It’s easy to get lost. I should know.”

“We have to free him again,” Cristina said.

“There won’t be another chance, I’m afraid.”

“We have to save his life.”

“When he escaped from their central detention center,” Raven said. “Considering the other related news about systems shutting down and remaining disabled for sometime, I suspected you and Alix. When he was recaptured I would suspect he’d be taken to their maximum-security facility. It is on the southeastern side of town very close to the dome maintenance track.”

Cristina glanced toward Alix.

“The walls of that prison have all sorts of electromagnetic scramblers to defeat any sort of surveillance device,” Raven said. “I believe you will find that it thwarts your abilities as well and in a way far more overwhelming than at the detention facility.”

Slahl’yukim reached for the pitcher of water and poured himself another glass. After he consumed it he complained. “Here killing me.”

“You prefer the cool dampness of a cavern,” Raven said.

“You no would?” Slahl’yukim responded.

Raven stared at Cristina. “He’s your charge now. You have to take care of him. Our world is as alien to him as his nature is to us. It’s increasingly more obvious by the moment that he cannot remain here.”

“But you have not told me how to break the news.”

“Am I the repository of all relevant knowledge in the world? I don’t think so. You have done something without my knowledge and certainly it is something I would have never approved. Everything before was up to you and now this must be the same way. I do not want to be involved.”

“You don’t understand,” Cristina said.

“I assure you I do. I fully understand why you did what you did and I appreciate the enormity of this accomplishment. But everything needs to be planned and the timing must be perfect to ever have the effect you intend. For that, you’ll need patience. You need to dig down deep inside and find wherever you have hidden yours.”

“We can’t exactly walk around with him and not expect to have some questions.”

“I suppose not,” Raven said. “I used to be a lot heavier when I was younger. I’m sure I have a hooded trench coat in my closet that will fit him.”

“That would be perfect.”

“The only issue you will have is his ID and payment wand. Dom can do something for him. The problem is that even if Dom implants a microchip the scan also checks for pulse. It is something that dates back to terrorist infiltration during the clone uprising. Dead clones were routinely used to obviate security measures. There are ways of defeating the check. For example, I have traveled with Dom who obviously does not have a human pulse. When his ID was scanned we were able to clear security simply because I was holding on to his wrist. The device picked up my pulse rate and accepted it as the primary.”

“Makes you feel really safe, doesn’t it?” Alix commented.

“Despite the failing, the bureaucracy still insists it is necessary to check for pulse. It is a perfect example of how some security measures are thought through completely but others are not,” Raven said. “Regardless of that, anything anyone ever comes up with can be defeated provided there’s enough time, energy and resourcefulness.”

“So we can travel with Slahl’yukim,” Cristina said. “Even outside of the city.”

“What’s wrong with breaking the news here?” Raven asked.

“I would rather be in New Milan or Andromeda,” Cristina said.

“I thought the whole point of doing this was to free Paul.”

Slahl’yukim reached for the pitcher of water again and poured himself another glass with the last available water in the pitcher.

“Freeing Paul is part of the point. Maybe it was the major point at first but things have changed. We know things that we did not know before.”

“Like the Sakum’malien are not indigenous,” Raven said.

“Exactly,” she said.

“Still, they were here first,” Alix said.

“‘Finders keepers’ expire sometime after childhood ends,” Raven said. “Besides, the Colonial Authority is not going to respond well to the presence of a living sand-morph.”

“They won’t like the exposure of the truth about the origins of our existence on Pravda,” Cristina said.

“That’s a given,” Raven said. “But the news is not anything that the mainstream public would suspect. The authorities have kept very tight controls on the information and imprisoned anyone credible with the desire to divulge the secret.”

“It is not going to be easy for them to discount the preponderance of evidence,” Alix said.

“But you need to present the evidence before they arrest you and Cristina.”

“I have not done anything like this before,” Alix said.

“The world as we know it is about to change,” Cristina said. “The truth could bring down the Colonial Authority.”

“Which should not be the goal at all,” Raven said.

“Why not?”

“What do you replace their authority with?” Raven asked. “There’s no alternative to fill the power vacuum. Despite the negative aspects of their governing, they represent order and stability. Without them there would be anarchy and chaos. Even their tyranny is preferable to the alternative of a world without an organized government and structure.”

“Maybe it will only be embarrassment that they suffer,” Alix said.

“Until then we have to duck under the scanner net and remain out of sight as much as possible,” she said.

“Yes,” Raven said. “That’s the immediate challenge.”