cnwood

May 29, 2012

Summer Hiatus

I know a little garden close

Set thick with lily and red rose,

Where I would wander if I might

From dewy dawn to dewy night,

And have one with me wandering.

–William Morris–

With the warm weather comes all those extra chores in the yard, the DIY home projects that have been saved for and scheduled, and the special day trips with family to feel the sunshine on our faces and bring home new memories. All this cuts down on writing time. So while I’m not exactly on holidays, I will be posting less frequently during the summer months. Fortunately my novel characters are always with me, along with a pad of paper and pens.

Have a great summer!

Advertisements

May 20, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Thirteen Part 3

The Terrace could never be considered just a restaurant, even by human standards. Six very large, very elegantly tiered platforms gently sloped down the landscaped hillside, spanning from the second floor kitchens and enclosed dining/buffet area—which also included access to the open walkway that straddled the entrance chamber—down to the lush park level with its cobbled walkways, decorative flowerbeds, and open sound stage for daily theatrical and musical productions.

Each widening white marble tier and gracefully graduated steps created a semi-circle, with the sound stage as focal point, and easily accommodated fifty tables per tier, allowing plenty of room off the main traffic areas for privacy and larger groupings. In times of emergency more tables could be set up or removed altogether and stored, forming a makeshift auditorium of chairs and steps for all residents and helpers.

Open twenty-four hours, daily, patrons of The Terrace were pampered with immaculate snowy white tablecloths and linen napkins, Bromon crested flatware that had a solid comfortable feel when used, fresh cut flowers or potted plants at the peak of blooming, and crystal flame lighting encased in glass lamps that increased in illumination as the day/night cycle rotated.

While the food courts in the Galleria and Hi Top Lounge were great for a healthy quick bite or takeout, The Terrace offered seven-course dining of the highest quality cuisine. Through the assistance of human helpers and the Crystal Lake Acres Corporation, Terrace staff regularly received meat and dairy products, along with hundreds of cases of different cultural wines that were stored in temperature controlled vaults throughout the city. Over the years Thalians had become connoisseurs of homemade fruit wines that offered higher alcohol content and no chemical aftertaste, making the house wines a popular choice for celebrations.

The crunch of stones and pounding feet preceded Debra and Damon around the wide gradual curve of the jogging path. Water droplets still covered the manicured lawns from the dawn sprinklers, filling the air with a moist freshness that smelled of pungent soil and scented blossoms.

Leaving the path, the sovereign and consort stopped at the bottom of the Terrace steps for a final set of stretches, arms and legs wet with sweat, faces flushed radiant with health. Since becoming the first official Thalian couple to reside in the city, they were regularly spotted early each morning on the more arduous jogging paths that ended below The Terrace for a full breakfast at the sovereign’s table on the second tier.

“All I’m saying is the consort needs to set an example,” Damon lightly panted, retrieving his bottle of water from the freshly scrubbed marble step. Dressed only in tight knee-length shorts and knob-soled running shoes, he toweled off his chest and arms before slipping on a lightweight black tank top.

“That’s easy for you to say,” Debra snapped pulling on black sweatpants over her exercise shorts. “Where do I find an hour, let alone two, for fittings? I don’t want a new wardrobe. I don’t need a new wardrobe.”

Damon watched well-toned arms pull the matching outsized sweat top over her head, his eyebrow sharply raised as if to say “I rest my case”. “What are you going to do, where black sweats to the Jubilee?”

“Are you saying the marriage is off if I don’t get a new wardrobe?”

His thumb lightly brushed the tip of her chin. “Personally, I find you appealing whatever you decide wear. But the elders are not quite as enamored with their consort as I am. Why don’t we start with one piece of clothing for now? Charon has designed a stunning gown just for you, that won’t be unveiled until Jubilee.”

He signaled the wait staff to begin serving their pre-ordered morning meal. Down on the stage fresh flowers were being artfully arranged amongst faux Greek columns and marble benches. At the moment a lone harpist practiced an afternoon number that promised to sooth diners and passersby, a Thalian composition that would be accompanied by several flutes and violins.

Seeing Damon at his sovereign best with staff and residents made Debra a little uncomfortable inside. Not that she would ever call him a politician. But he was a man born to incredible power over others and carried the heavy mantel of his position extremely well. Maybe what she really felt uncomfortable with was her own inability to face people as gracious and diplomatically.

“What if I don’t like Charon’s dress design?” Debra murmured irritably. “We haven’t covered wardrobe in my consort lessons yet. Am I allowed to wear what I want?”

“It’s just a design, love,” Damon responded gently. “Charon will be more than happy to change whatever you don’t like. She’ll ask you a few questions about your preferred lifestyle, colors, accessory choices, then draw up several designs for different occasions and you’ll pick the ones you like and any modifications you want.”

Using the Bromon crested fork, she managed to push her scrambled eggs from one side of the plate to the other. “I guess you think I’m being silly.”

“I think, other than school, you’ve never had to deal with a public life. You’ve never had a big family around you.” He leaned closer, his long fingers reaching out and holding her smaller hand. “Your life above made you the most self-reliant person I’ve ever known; you can improvise better than anyone. I don’t want to change you, Debra. Just help you find your full potential by introducing you to a little more adventure where choices are concerned.”

Debra drew in a small calming breath and pushed aside her uneaten breakfast. He was using his best velvet voice on her again, the one that had kept her trying to survive here in the real world. Only this time the marital bond made the truth of his words sweetly evident. “All right, I’ll find some time this morning.” Glancing at the plain watch on her wrist, she grimaced, tossing the white napkin on the table. “Crap, I’m going to be late for class.”

Had there been other children and young adults in the city, Debra would have been part of a class of ten or fifteen students studying control techniques for several basic psychic skills; most likely in one of the large teaching rooms on the second level. The handful of second-generation babies remaining in the city were born with mature psychic knowledge and insight, yet were too fragile physically to leave the nursery for extended periods. Being trapped in so short a life, theirs was an existence of play and loving indulgence.

With no young people to train, the lecture theaters and labs stayed empty, instructors competed amongst themselves to retain and expand proficiency, and like Eron, elders and grand masters often reminisced about the old days of educating and yearned to be of use again someday. Now, suddenly, Debra was theirs to shape and mold, a Vion no less, and created a zealous fire of determination to provide the sovereign’s consort with the utmost training and curriculum.

In her honor, all instructors had sworn the highest possible standards would be applied to Debra’s training, whether she agreed to such in-depth tutoring or not.

Not sure whether to consider her instructors’ undivided attention as a blessing or a curse, Debra felt compelled to follow along with the chosen courses even though there were times she felt like an adult attending kindergarten class.

When she asked to learn Thalian psychic ways she had not envisioned hours of breathing and visualization. What did breathing have to do with using the killing power?

Now very late for her first class of the day, Debra waved a timid greeting and hurried over to join grand master elder Mica on the agreed to bench in the park. Being in a class of one meant lessons were often held in the park or some tucked away alcove in the entrance chamber, sometimes even in an empty area on a lower tier of The Terrace.

“You’re late.”

May 5, 2012

Death in the Family

No post this week

due to a

death in the family

 

cnwood

˜

April 29, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Thirteen Part 2

Life beneath the surface settled back into a comfortable routine for all its citizens and helpers, in spite of the growing unrest above. Duran’s daily blogs often spoke of new mob violence spreading out from urban areas across the country as Americans struggled with a plunging economic recession, a collapsed housing market, high unemployment, and skyrocketing oil and gas prices. The global market fared little better, the disturbing details of spiraling interconnected dependency readily broadcasted over all online media outlets.

Even government secrets were no match for Duran’s unparalleled hacking skills. High level communication channels with the latest encryption coding and sites with clearance above ‘top secret’ were regularly monitored by the small department of human-Thalian interrelations for any news that could affect the underwater cities or the Thalian nation’s chances for living in the sunlight.

One such classified report concerned the correlation between the thinning ozone layer to systemic infant and elderly fatal diseases, with one in every three adults between the ages of twenty and sixty subjected to some form of skin or organ cancer. In the years since the atmospheric virus wiped out the entire on-land colony and construction crew, the humans had done nothing but bicker amongst themselves as to the validity of ozone sickness and the green house effect.

Now, over twenty years later, humans were finally beginning to acknowledge the connection to deaths and the environment, a lethal trend which in turn created havoc with normal climate zones, bringing abnormal rain and snowfall, super tornados and hurricanes, mild winters and hotter summers that fashioned perfect irrevocable droughts. The doom-sayers called it the end of the world. Thalians called it gross mismanagement by a race with a predilection toward self-destruction.

The original Thalian directive had been to quietly intermingle with the human population; to become as human as possible. Future generations would eventually see the complete assimilation of the Thalian nation. But the archives and stories about the past and a willingness to sacrifice in order to survive would live on, maybe destined to become the stuff of legends and myths.

Not anymore. If the humans were too weak to save themselves, then Thalian psychic strength and technology would infiltrate their governments and set a new direction for them. Of course, the modified directive still awaited a cure or atmospheric virus inhibiter before beginning phase one of Redirect.

“This is ridiculous, Rowan. How many damn skin samples do you need?” Debra chafed, propped on the high stool by the lab counter, arm stretched out flat under some kind of moving kinetic energy microscope. Her customary black sweatshirt had been pushed up almost to shoulder height, revealing several slender pinkish lines from earlier scrapings.

Over the past week Debra had been paged to the cell research lab on the third level no less than six times. On each occasion numerous samples had been taken from different areas of her body for study and comparison to those who had died from the atmospheric virus and also with a diverse selection of samples from the viral database that housed genetic data from every Thalian resident on Earth.

“Sorry, Deb, but you’re the only living Thalian donor we’ve got who’s immune to the virus,” Rowan mumbled, nose pressed almost to the monitor as new data filled the screen. “And don’t forget, no self-healing until all the testing is done. I don’t want the findings skewed with data from the same location.”

“Doesn’t the human half of me automatically corrupt your findings?” Debra grimaced as a new painless inch-long scraping automatically started closer to her wrist. The scowl remained on her face as dark eyes glared at Rowan’s back. She only had forty-five minutes until her next class and Damon had promised to let her be master to his slave. It was difficult enough finding time to be alone in a city full of people and helpers and sovereign’s duties and classes. Something had to give and it was usually sleep.

Frustrated by the delay, Debra sighed and went back to boring imaginary holes in her current nemesis.

Rowan grinned, noting the pouting mouth and snapping brown eyes. One could almost feel the irritation radiating in waves from the younger woman. “Don’t you worry about that, honey. Your genetic makeup is predominantly Thalian. The human substance you have is easily factored out.”

“Really?” Debra said, thinking of her mother’s new found happiness. “Don’t tell Edith that. Let her go on believing I’m half and half.” Ever since the truth had come out about Debra’s parentage, Edith had made a point of texting, Thalian style, or dropping by one of her classes almost on a daily basis. Debra loved seeing her mother but was beginning to feel like a rescued abductee whose parent refused to let them out of their sight.

“Whatever you and I discuss, medically speaking, is privileged,” Rowan replied tolerantly. All in all, Debra continued to be more resilient and adaptive than many had first expected. With most everyone but the fish hoping for a moment of her time, Rowan couldn’t resist having a little fun. “And speaking as your doctor, how much longer is this game going to continue.”

The scowl deepened over tired eyes as Debra stared blankly at the other woman.

Failing to suppress the grin on her face, Rowan offered a teasing shrug. “I was with elder Mica yesterday in Damon’s office.” She watched as recollection dawned in Debra’s widening eyes. “Muffled voices coming from the side room, Damon coming out breathless and flushed, his shirt buttoned up wrong. Or reports of skinny-dippers in the pool after midnight two nights ago. And my favorite, putting one of the lifts out of order for forty-minutes during the dinner hour. That game. Need I go on?”

Bare lips opened, then shut without a sound. What was the use in denying it. The fact that their extracurricular activities were probably known all over the city brought a momentary flush of embarrassment to her cheeks. Yet deep inside Debra felt a tingle of rebellious arousal just thinking about Damon waiting for her by the waterfall.

“Not much longer,” Debra said with quiet disarming openness. “I’m paying off a debt that ends tomorrow night.” The final scraping completed, the machine hinged back, freeing Debra’s arm. “Are Damon and I to be called before the elders like misbehaving teenagers?”

Eyes twinkling with amusement, Rowan calmly remarked, “Manton let me know something was going on.” In truth, she felt more than a little envious of her brother’s sex life. “Sensors notified a couple of his key security people. Nobody else knows. But in this city the computer is always watching and our sovereign should know better,” she smirked. “Now, as your doctor, I recommend a good night’s sleep instead of playing games. But I doubt either of you will listen to me. So get out of here and tell Damon he owes me dinner at The Terrace.” Hands on hips she shouted at the closing door. “And no self-healing.”

“More bloody samples,” Debra groused, running for the nearest lift, and wondered how much trouble she’d be in if the damn machine was suddenly found broken. Knowing Rowan she’d probably use a dull knife to scrape off her samples instead.

April 22, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Thirteen Part 1

The city’s twilight nightfall had already cycled into simulated daylight by the time Damon and Debra thought about leaving the Heart. A forty-eight hour leave had been encouraged by the council of elders, a kind of belated honeymoon in honor of the couple’s now mutually accepted marital bond.

Duties dictated only two days could be spared before earthbound nation business demanded the sovereign’s full attention again. Having been born to leadership, Damon loved his work as supreme administrator over all Thalians. The long hours and hard decisions came easily to his psychic disposition and physical fortitude. The deeply respected and much lauded council of elders often presented protocols and procedures for all Thalian citizens to live by while trapped below the surface. But in the end, the sovereign’s word was law.

The onset of this year’s Jubilee would be steeped in spectacular Thalian pageantry, as the public joining of Damon and Debra brought a bittersweet end to the propagation experiment started thirty years ago. Their marital bond would also be the first Thalian marriage recorded on Earth, in spite of Debra being the last of her kind.

No less busy than her new husband, Debra had promised to settle down as a serious student in tutored psychic studies and control, and to help Rowan in viral research by supplying numerous new skin and blood samples for the database. The delivered datapad had provided a syllabus of day-long courses and instructors, each day to end in the council chamber for instruction in the duties of a consort, under the tutelage of the elders. For the time being, Manton’s combat classes were relegated to any available spare time, which wouldn’t be much.

Willing to please her new relatives, Debra accepted their enthusiasm in the training of her Thalian half, up to a point. And wasn’t above saying no if pushed too far. Her reclusive nature had yet to adjust to all the constant attention and people that sometimes seemed to zap her strength. But mostly she felt confident at eventually adapting to her new life knowing Damon and Manton were there to beat on in hand-to-hand when she needed an outlet for her frustration.

Their first night on holiday Damon had placed a mumbled call to Manton, who showed up ten minutes later at the door, offering a small package to Damon and a friendly wink and wave at Debra. Where only a half-hour earlier he had been reluctant to even enter the bedroom, now, with package in hand, Damon couldn’t seem to get her underdressed and on the bed fast enough.

His black eyes had blazed with need and love as he draped the thin gold chain about her bare neck, laying the slender gold and crystal Talisman pendant gently between her breasts. It was an exact replica of the bonding pendant he had given her nine years ago in the dream world. Only this time Debra understood its meaning and the ritual words that followed. First Rites may have been claimed and taken in the dream world, but loving each other as physical beings made their joining and journey to the Heart of the Talisman no less special.

Not considered a state of mind or another dimension, the Heart was a sacred place outside of the body, a gift to all bonded Thalians from The Mother and Father God of Home. It was not a solid existence holding onto material things, but more a realm of energy and color and the influence of love’s purest form. Within the journey to the Heart a bonded couple gave much more to each other than just heightened physical pleasure. Those willing to take the time experienced the immortal joys of Home in the shared blending of intellect and lifeforce; a renewing and strengthening of a mortal commitment to each other.

Awareness returned slowly, the only major downfall of the journey to the Heart. The exhaustive toll on the mind and body afterward promised a day of sleeping and little else. They would be lucky to crawl from the bed to the bathroom during the next twenty-four hours. Still in their large comfortable bed, Damon held onto Debra and rolled over onto his back, determined to keep their bodies joined before falling back to sleep.

A stray beam of light helped pull Debra’s consciousness back to the surface from a long comforting slumber. It took a moment to realize the drapes were slightly parted, offering a small point of reference for the widening slice of light that eventually cleaved the darkened room in half.

Fingering the Talisman crystal pendant about her neck, Debra smiled. Many of the memories of the Heart had been demoted to hazy flashes of thoughts and vague vibrant colors. What remained clear was the feeling of an infinite wholeness with another human being, to know another so completely and realize how alone life had been before.

The bond with Damon was real. She could sense him, even now while he slept. How remarkable to know the slight curve of his lips was caused by a deeper sense of contentment in mind and body. The smile broadened as his eyes slowly worked their way open to mere slits. Debra sympathized with his efforts to make that final leap into wakefulness.

“I wanna be inside you again, but I’m too damn tired,” he whispered, covering a yawn. “So I’ll imagine it in full color and be just as happy.”

Debra sprawled across her side of the bed, strong healthy thigh muscles almost groaning in pleasure with her version of deep manipulating stretches. “Why are all these astral travel things so exhausting afterward?”

His large hand rubbed over the bristling whiskers on his neck and chin. Had they still been on Thalia, unwanted facial and body hair would have been easily repressed for a month or more with a localized discharge of channeled energy. Even though he had been raised learning the ways of shaving paraphernalia, occasionally Damon ignored recommended human hygienic procedures and indulged in the effortless precision of his own kinetic power.

Eyes closed, he felt the tiny bristles dissolve in the customary blue glow of painless energy, leaving behind softly smooth golden-toned skin. “I can only surmise there must be payment for the privilege of experiencing perfection,” he chuckled, yawning again. “It’s the reason why the Heart is saved for special occasions.” He rolled his head on the pillow and gazed at Debra and grinned. “Takes too long to recover. Can you imagine the state of the city if everyone was popping off for a trip to the Heart?”

Slender fingers traced the clean strong jaw line where only moments ago had been a dark shadow of prickly stubble. “Please, tell me I can do that with the hair on my own body and I’ll be your sex slave for a week.”

Damon’s tongue lazily flicked over his full bottom lip as he contemplated a full week of Debra at his beck and call. “The week begins—seven full days and nights—as soon as we’re completely recovered, which should be day after tomorrow.”

“Before I say deal, let me clarify the terms,” Debra said, humor in her eyes. “If I can, you have to teach me first.”

“Done,” Damon said without hesitation, pulling her silky nakedness against his chest so they could cuddle spoon-fashion in sleep. In truth, a week of unbridled pleasure would be hard pressed to say exactly who was master and who was slave.

April 15, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Twelve Part 4

Edith refused to let go of Debra’s hand and pulled her over to the nearest sofa. Seated almost hip to hip she held onto her daughter’s arm with both hands. The end of the secret had her heart pounding and her mind ecstatic. Debra was hers again. Yet as the room quieted in anticipation of Eron’s findings, Edith also found herself feeling vulnerable. Would Debra still love her once the whole truth was out in the open?

Muscled arms and strong backs arranged two of the larger sofas and a couple of overstuffed chairs into a tight grouping so voices wouldn’t carry, but more important, to achieve an intimate show of support for Edith. Eron waited until all were ready and lowered himself into the remaining empty chair.

Seeing Debra wedged between Damon and Edith on the green plaid sofa, Eron sheepishly smiled at Debra like a kindly old uncle. Under Thalian law they were family, all members of the House of Bromon. “My dear,” Eron began, his tone purposefully neutral. “I’m going to keep you guessing about your evaluation for just a bit longer.” He glanced at Edith’s anxious face, believing the direct approach to be the fastest way to ease the woman’s fears.

Sitting on the edge of his seat, elbows flat against the cushioned armrests, Eron focused his attention on Debra. “You’ll no doubt be wondering why you ended up in Dorothy’s care.” An excellent poker face, Eron mused, then berated his wandering thoughts. “One of the reasons Trevon stayed at the Montana settlement was because of you, dear. The only guarantee of keeping your immune system strong and healthy against the atmospheric virus was to keep you on the planet surface.

“Your father wasn’t willing to give you up for the sake of staying alive a few more months on the ship. You had a very special bond with your father. Part of the reason was that you both shared Thalian abilities. But even more important was the fact that you were Thalian and human. He saw you as the best part of himself and Edith and took great pleasure in parental pride.”

Try as hard as she could, Debra failed to recall any memories of her father at all. Mind and heart found it so easy to love the sentiments of the man described to her. Yet she would never know him or remember that special loving bond between father and daughter. Times like these she had to wonder what good her total recall served when the most important memories were beyond her abilities.

“You were linked to your father at the time of his death.” Eron paused to let that fact sink in before carefully choosing his next words. “It’s because of that link that I can tell you what happened the day your father died.”

Eyes widened in surprise about the silently enthralled group. Except for Eron and Edith, all of them had been only children at the time of Trevon’s death; Debra only a baby. Each had still been growing into their abilities and learning Thalian ways of the past and future. Now as responsible adults, it was a little bit of a shock to discover that their old tutor’s skills as observer still had something new to teach.

Sitting back in the comfy chair, Eron looked inward at a memory not his own. “The two of you were in the backyard, lying on Trevon’s motorized recliner and watching the clouds float by. It was warm that day. Edith had cut the grass earlier, an earthly smell Trevon found deeply pleasing.  Although physically weak, Trevon remained strong mentally until the end. He was sharing visions with you about how Thalian’s view corporal death as a joyous release, like graduating from the university of life with honors, and the well earned pass to journey Home.

“The two of you were laughing at his funny images of the large flowers and trees that exist at Home. So he took you to the back fence and opened the gate to show you the verdant meadow beyond the ravine and the stunning wildflowers in bloom. He told you the colorful species of nature on Earth were just like Home, only at Home they were much, much bigger.”

Hearing the candor of the older man’s words brought back so many wretched memories of that day. As though Edith would ever let herself forget. So she sat like a condemned prisoner, awaiting sentencing from her peers and loved ones, and let the truth of Eron’s words stab into her heart over and over.

“The strain of walking that short distance was too much in Trevon’s depleted condition. He went into convulsions and collapsed in the yard, leaving the gate open.  Instinctively you laid hands on your father’s chest, trying to make him well. Because of the link, he knew it was more a matter of your body automatically doing what came naturally than a conscious thought.

“When his heart stopped, he lay dying, his mind watching with the help of the link between you as kinetic energy channeled through your hands and restarted his heart. In the process, the energy created a cloaking aura around the both of you. And because of the amount of energy being channeled into him, his torso levitated a good foot off the ground.”

Eron glanced at Edith’s stricken face, tears streaming, hands holding onto Debra so tightly she threatened to cut off the blood flow. “Your mother had come out onto the veranda and saw you standing over Trevon. She witnessed the energy leaving your tiny hands and driving into Trevon’s chest several times. The stress of the long illness had drained Edith’s strength, leaving her emotionally exhausted. We all knew Trevon’s passing would be very difficult for Edith to accept. When she came out and found the two of you—”

“She thought I was killing him.” Debra answered jadedly, eyes unafraid and intense. “Are you sure I didn’t?”

“Let me finish,” Eron said gently, watching the stubborn young face flush with self-recrimination, “and I think you’ll be able to answer that question for yourself. The sight of Trevon being bombarded by all that energy was too much for Edith to handle, and in human terms, her mind snapped.

“Screaming like a demented soul, Edith tried to tear you away from Trevon. You never made a sound, never cried out once. But even at the tender age of two, your cloaking aura was formidable and held her off. Using clasped hands, Edith beat you off of Trevon, then threw your body outside the fence and closed the gate to keep you away.

“By the time she got back to Trevon he had just enough strength to whisper the word “No” and place the image of you tumbling down the ravine in her mind. Already in a catatonic state, Edith couldn’t comprehend the danger she had placed you in. It took almost six months for her to recover and piece together what she had done. By then it was too late for both of you.”

What Eron refused to divulge were all the horrendous words Edith had shrieked at her baby daughter. The face of hate and fear screaming murderer, bad seed, evil and demon . . . kill you.

The insanity of that day had never been apparent in the woman he had known before or after her recovery. He saw no reason to taint the relationship further between mother and daughter for the sake of full disclosure. Edith still suffered for her actions that day and the ten years of hell Debra suffered at the hands of her sister, Dorothy. Often Eron was the voice of calm at counsel over Edith’s rebellion against protocol where Debra was concerned; a fragile mind’s way of trying to make amends.

“After that you would cry yourself sick whenever Edith was present. The decision was made by the elders to place you in the care of Dorothy and Jeff, who was still alive at the time. No one had any idea Dorothy would become psychotic about normal psychic behavior.”

Eron accepted a cold bottle of water from Manton and took several deep swallows to relieve his parched throat before continuing. His attention remained focused on Debra as he hurried to explain. “An evaluation was done at that time but you were way too young to get any accurate images from. And of course, your memory of that day had been completely eradicated. Yet you continued to suffer mentally and physically, as if tormented by phantom recollections. Shortly after your fourth birthday a memory block was inserted, concealing all memories of the first four years of your life.”

Silence hung heavy in the brightly lit room as tears rolled down Edith’s cheeks. “I’ve never forgiven myself,” she quietly sobbed. “So many times I wished I could just forget the whole mess. But then I’d see Debra, getting older and dealing with everything as best she could. Fighting on, no matter what. And I’d tell myself there had to be part of me inside her, making her strong to keep going. How could I do any less?”

Releasing her stranglehold on Debra’s arm, Edith took a deep breath and wiped away the fresh tears. “I deeply apologize, Debra, for me and my sister. You deserved so much better than we gave you.” Glancing at Debra she smiled halfheartedly. “I’ve often wondered what our lives would have been like had I not lost it that day.”

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Debra answered calmly, feeling no real emotions over Eron’s words because there were no memories of the fear and pain as a baby. “Believe me, mother, I understand what it means to ‘lose it’. It’s happened to me, more than once.” She studied Edith’s lovely familiar face and remembered a little girl of five and that magical summer with Edith. Instead of feeling angry about the past, she felt the magic returning to her soul a hundred times over.

Eyes gleaming in amusement, Debra grinned. “I may be backward where some of my abilities are concerned, but at this moment I like who and what I am. I like being here and knowing you’re my mother and actually having a future for a change.”

Debra glanced around the group of smiling, caring faces, no longer strangers, more than a little surprised at how much of herself had been shared with these people in so short a time. In all honesty, she had lived more in the few weeks she had been here than could be said for her entire past.

“I even accept that Damon is the consort’s husband,” Debra said regally, then spoiled the effect by giggling when Damon choked on a mouthful of water. “But I’m only half Thalian and the human part of me doesn’t feel married.”

“Are you expecting me to get down on one knee?” Damon asked with sardonic laughter.

“We can discuss it later, over dinner,” Debra said genially, giving Damon a wink. Turning her thoughts inward, she listened to that tiny voice inside and tried to describe all the new feelings to Eron. “At the moment I feel so strong, like all of a sudden an oppressive weight, I didn’t even know I was carrying, has been taken away. Actually, I feel quite free and I don’t recall ever experiencing that sensation before.”

“I guess that means you’re ready to start linking with your tutors tomorrow,” Damon innocently grinned, lightly patting the slender hand that jerked against his thigh. Her fleeting frown did little to reprimand or change his plans for a quiet evening alone for two. At the moment happiness seemed a contagious commodity in the OT lounge. And like the others, he doubted anything could squelch the contentment bursting inside him right now.

Was she ready to link? Debra wondered, and stopped to consider if the feeling of dread in her stomach was a habit response or how she truly felt about linking with others? And yet she did feel different since hearing the truth about the past. But did that knowledge automatically wipe clean all the havoc her abilities had caused? At this point there was no way to be sure except by actually taking Damon, and her tutors, up on this challenge.

Dark eyes flashed with understated sarcasm at Damon’s smug expression, promising retribution later. Being on intimate terms with the sovereign, Debra knew every one of his weak spots and wasn’t above using them against him. She smirked to herself; no doubt that was one of her more human traits exerting itself from under the mountain of Thalian procedures and protocols.

Always the researcher, Rowan left Debra to her brother’s charms and zeroed in on the logistics of what they had just heard. “All this detail from a memory Debra doesn’t even remember. How is this possible, Eron?” Rowan curiously asked. Routine had her shutting out the lively voices of Manton and Theron as they drew Edith into a conversation of the many preparations still to be completed for the upcoming Jubilee.

Ready for inquiries, Eron leaned closer to Rowan to be heard. “From a medical standpoint you’re aware that the mind dies slower than the body. But it’s not just the electrical aspect of the brain that continues to function. Cerebral awareness is also present.”

Rowan mutely nodded in agreement, accepting the premise of one specialist to another.

“And although it’s not a secret, many Thalians don’t realize that when linking with another, a part of them is left behind in the other. These bits of left behind memories are easily ignored because linked memories are often mirror images of each other. Trevon saw everything that happened just as Debra did, until she was rendered unconscious and tossed into the ravine.

“Debra’s memories of that day were destroyed when her father died, brutally severing the link between them. If she hadn’t already been unconscious then the severing would have put her into a coma, like what happened with Damon. Trevon knew what was coming and buried his memory deep in her consciousness. As it was, the chemical pathways where destroyed, but the memory remained intact. Without those vital chemical pathways Debra will never remember.”

“And that’s what you went looking for,” Rowan stated, her eyes reflecting an earnest fascination. “How did you know Trevon would send the memory deep? For that matter, how did Trevon even know how to manipulate a memory?”

Eron laughed at her eagerness, allowing himself a moment to reminisce about the old days. His current duties kept him quite busy and in constant interaction with the city’s residents. But his heart and soul deeply missed evaluating and teaching; what he had been born to do. Now, looking back, he better understood the discord his old friend had suffered.

“Trevon’s first love was wood sculpting,” Eron boasted warmly, sitting back in the chair, suddenly realizing all eyes were once again on him. “Many of his pieces are on display throughout the city. Excellent craftsmanship.” He chuckled at Edith. “He spent hundreds of hours hand carving each interlocking piece of wood for that Lover’s Box he gave you. Every spare moment till it was finished. A premier master for sure.”

A seriousness came over Eron’s demeanor that seemed to darken his drawn face. “But the times and survival in a new home called for sacrifices from many. Trevon was my trainee.” There were several gasps. Not many Thalians were born with the right qualities to be an observer. “I’m the only psychic master on Earth. There are several good psychic observers I’ve trained over the years. But Trevon was the first.”

Noting Edith’s confusion, Eron nodded and resumed. “It’s true, my dear. Not many knew. Mass assessments were conducted aboard each ship, with prospective trainees relocated to the mother ship. Trevon had one of the highest scores and had been training with me for almost four years before he became infected. None of the trainees had a natural aptitude for psychic observation. What set Trevon apart was his talent for learning. A gift he often cursed, at the time, when training took him away from working with the abundant supply of wood Earth had to offer.”

He looked at Rowan. “To answer your question, Trevon was fully qualified to perform psychic evaluation and memory manipulation. I knew I would find something buried in Debra’s consciousness about that day.” He rolled his eyes and glanced at Debra. “The problem was getting her to link with me so I could carry out the fact-finding evaluation.”

Debra shrugged sheepishly. “Sorry. Out in the real world it’s better to be tight-lipped and extremely cautious,” she touted in her own defense.

“What about her nightmare,” Damon inquired quickly, giving Debra’s hand a light squeeze.

“Repressed fears,” Eron said simply. “Debra and the kinetic energy became the evil killing power that destroyed Trevon, something that was reinforced by Edith’s actions. To cope, a sane young mind will often use monsters, fear, and punishment as persecutors rather than admit to the possibility of truly being all those terrible things. An insane person would have no conscience and not care, but go merrily about their way wrecking havoc.

“Linking or melding became painful, like the viciously severed link with her father. It was something to be avoided and caused numerous aberrations when tried.” Like a tutor to his students, Eron swiftly glanced at each face. “The mind has a way of self-correcting when the root cause of a fear or other problem has been confronted. It’s my opinion that Debra will no longer suffer her previous lack of control or the nightmare.”

“But if she didn’t remember anything—” Rowan challenged respectfully.

“Her awareness can’t remember anything of that day. It’s something she will never be able to access. But Trevon’s linked memory will always be a part of her consciousness.”

“Why did Debra and I never have any trouble linking and melding? We’ve known each other since she was eighteen months. So why were those memories never forgotten?” Damon asked, intrigued.

Eron smiled widely. “From a psychic observer’s perspective, the two of you are made from the same mental fabric. You were a part of each other on a daily basis well before Trevon died. There was nothing to fear between you, only comfort. Your memories of the dream world reinforced Debra’s early existence every time you joined mentally. She knew herself as a baby through you and the environment you created together.” Becoming more formal, Eron faced Damon directly. “With your permission, sovereign, I would like to be the one to announce your consort as Vion at this year’s Jubilee.”

“I knew it,” shouted Edith gleefully, pumping raised fists in the air victoriously.

Laughter filled the room, voices talking over each other, and whoops of delight rending the air. Eron sat watching the joyous pandemonium and sighed, a satisfied grin on his face. Damon and Debra, the only two Vions on Earth. Between the two of them there had to be an answer to the virus.

April 8, 2012

Are Brain Dead and the Eleventh Hour Synonymous?

This disturbing question arose on Monday, the day after I normally post my weekly novel installment. Only a handful of chapters, maybe less, are needed now before reaching that final page and doing a victory dance around my computer chair. The end of my novel is definitely in sight and I should be one happy writer. Shouldn’t I?

In terms of nearing completion and having my mettle tested, month after month, in the dogged writing trenches, I’ve reached my eleventh hour—along with my second wind several chapters back—and ought to be bursting with cerebral energy and a focused vision, since the climax of this epic story is thankfully all downhill now. Right?

Sadly, my expectations were wrong when Monday’s writing session found me brain dead and reluctant to even open the chapter file. As I listlessly watched the cursor blinking on the page, my mind tired and barren of one viable piece of dialogue or descriptive phrase, I realized this lack of enthusiasm had been creeping into my consciousness for a couple of weeks now. As to the root cause or how permanent the affliction, I took some time this past week to evaluate my situation.

Whether work, personal, or a journal, a day doesn’t go by when I haven’t written something to please myself or others. The daily stress of life is basically the same for everyone—family, job, money, health—so I set aside the day to day stuff and concentrated just on the writing aspect and what it still means to me.

Writing has always provided an inner contentment and enjoyment, a form of recreation to get lost in for hours and a way of re-energizing brain cells from the often rigid responsibilities of life. At the same time writing is also essential for my happiness, an attribute of who I am, like the color of my eyes.

In all the years that I’ve been writing I’ve experienced many emotions that helped make my work heartfelt respectable or a lackadaisical contribution, a righteous statement to the cause or no gold star and headed for the trash. But never once did I suffer through that dreaded dis-ease known as writer’s block. Was I finally due?

Anyone who consistently works with words can understand when I say that writing is often a pleasurable torment. There is nothing more delightful than experiencing that pleasurable high when the day’s writing has gone well. Of course, the flipside means equal measures of frustrating torment when the words won’t come together and all that work gets axed by the delete button. But having good days and bad is nothing new, nothing to stress about, unless you’re on a tight deadline.

During this evaluation period I reaffirmed my passion for writing, accepted the pros and cons of what it means to write and my own abilities. And wanting to make the limited time I have for writing each day to count for something, even if it was just one perfectly crafted paragraph, I set aside the novel and opted to try an experiment.

For the remainder of the week I did free-writes about anything that wasn’t connected to the novel.

The change was almost instantaneous. Suddenly intrigued by the limitless possibilities, I found myself perched on the edge of my chair in anticipation. After so many days of fighting with each word, my mind felt light and spontaneous again, my fingers moving over the keys with their usual nimble energy. The culmination of several writing sessions resulted in a rough draft of this blog.

The experiment quickly made it clear that I wasn’t suffering from writer’s block or becoming brain dead. A sense of fun had returned while writing this piece, something I hadn’t felt in several weeks while working on the novel.

What does it all mean? I’ve come to the conclusion that after months of high energy output and a strict daily discipline to composing each chapter, I was slowly losing my edge and enthusiasm for want of a little writing variety; a holiday, if you will, from work on the novel to relax my brain and get the juices flowing again.

Finishing the novel is important to me. But I have no desire to simply grind away with words and sentences and eventually fall across the finish line in numb exhaustion. I may be tired when I print out that last page but I want a smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment humming throughout my body.

For me the moral of the story seemed simple. Discipline and determination would only get me so far. To be the best writer I could be required a sense of fun and an eager anticipation of each day’s work as an ongoing part of the equation as well.

So, with a little holiday thrown in, now and again, I’ll be typing that last page of the novel in no time at all. Definitely my finest hour indeed.

April 1, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Twelve Part 3

“Calm yourself, Rowan,” Eron said stiffly. “I said no such thing. I’m simply presenting the findings from that long ago day, facts now part of the archives because that’s all the elders had to work with.”

“I beg your pardon, Eron,” Rowan said contritely, head bowed like a school girl being chastised. Her mentor’s opinions meant a great deal to her and she would no more insult Eron than she would her own father. “Please, continue.”

It was rare for Eron to lose his temper. A telling sign as far as Damon was concerned that his old friend was more upset by Debra’s evaluation than he let on. Theron stepped away from the bed, feeling uncomfortable at seeing his superior and the head of medical-science rebuked in front of witnesses, and busied himself with gathering up the last few blackened towels and tossing them in the hamper.

Cold drink in hand, Eron glanced at the empty doorway and stalled for time. “By the end of the day, the reached consensus was that only Trevon, Edith, and Debra had been in the backyard, the gate presumably opened at one point, and left slightly ajar when Trevon went into convulsions. And Edith, overcome with grief, had passed out leaving Debra alone in the yard.”

Glancing at the doorway again, Eron finished off the cold juice and tossed the glass bottle down the recycle chute. “A neighbor heard Edith screaming and went to investigate. Only Trevon and Edith were found and the back gate was closed. Without further evidence, the elders assumed the tension-spring automatically pulled the gate closed when Debra, unable to wake either adult, pushed it open and stepped through. Fortunately the irrigation ditch was empty of water at the time or Debra would most likely have drowned after falling down the ravine.”

Rowan kept waiting for a ‘but’ that never came and finally asked what everyone else was thinking. “But after evaluating Debra, you don’t think it happened that way anymore?”

“Only two people survived Trevon’s death. And both of them were severely traumatized. Debra has no memories of that day on a conscious level. Her link to Trevon, and the brutal shock of separation caused by his death, erased those memories forever.” Looking for confirmation, Eron met Damon’s baffled eyes.

“It’s true,” Damon agreed, wondering what new evidence Eron could have found if Debra’s memories of that day were gone. “I don’t remember that last link with my father or much of what happened that day. The memories are just gone.”

“What’s going on, Eron?” Rowan asked earnestly. “I’ve read many of the archive files that pertain to Debra, looking for something to explain her psychic difficulties. If Debra’s memories can’t tell us about that day, and the archives say Edith can’t remember that day, I don’t understand what it is you’re getting at.”

“I lied,” Edith said breathlessly, standing in the lounge doorway, tears glittering in her eyes. Manton stood just behind her in the hallway, feeling cleaner from a quick shower and a change of uniform, his large hands resting lightly on Edith’s shoulders as though offering support.

Eron gave Edith a kindhearted nod and gestured for her to come in.

Debra groaned, drawing everyone’s attention back to the wheeled bed. Long, slender hands made feeble motions of helplessness as her system purged the last of the drug from her body. Eyelids slowly fluttered open, seeking out Damon, his mind gradually separating from her own and ending the reassuring meld. Theron promptly raised the head of the bed, helping Debra in her efforts to sit up.

Smudged faces, framed with oddly sticking out hair, stared at her, a perplexed frown creasing Debra’s brow. “I gather things didn’t go as planned,” she grimaced, longing to spit the awful taste from her mouth. Intense dark eyes zeroed in on Rowan and the tranquilizer guns sticking out of her smock pockets. “I don’t recall anything being said about shooting me. So why was I drugged?”

“After we’re through here I’ll take you down to the crisis room so you can see why,” Rowan said drolly and offered a bottle of water. Fingers coated with maintenance cleaner rubbed an itch on the side of her nose and came away covered with bits of black. “Damn,” she muttered, certain it would take at least a dozen showers to get this crap out of her hair. “Your defenses kicked in again when things went a little sideways.”

“We’re all okay,” Damon offered. “The extra precautions worked.” He fingered aside several loose strands of hair from Debra’s face. No sense mentioning the crisis room needed to be completed gutted and rebuilt. Later would be soon enough. “You were only out about fifteen minutes, just long enough for me to reestablish the meld again and make you feel safe.” He placed a quick comforting kiss on her lips.  “Eron has been giving us some background information about your situation.”

“What did you find, Eron?” Debra quietly asked, eyes focused on her dirty thumb stroking across Damon’s knuckles. With the moment finally at hand, she was suddenly afraid to hear the answer.

“What do you remember about your father?” Eron asked, his eyes compassionate as her head came up, confusion clear on her face.

A small gasp sounded. Debra glanced toward the sofa and blinked in surprise. “Edith, I didn’t know you were here.” Her aunt’s erratic heartbeat resonated in her head. The woman reeked of fear. Whatever was coming, Debra braced for the worst and hoped to survive the heartbreak.

Sad eyes watched Edith as Debra answered Eron. “Until I came here I grew up believing Jeffrey Hall was my father. No one told me any different.” Damon squeezed her hand, reassuringly. “I have no memories of my real father. I don’t even know his name.”

Tormented, tear-filled eyes held Debra’s gaze. “Trevon was your father,” Edith blurted, needing to get the truth out as though her life depended on it. Tired of the secret and living with the shame, Edith held her breath and prayed to see forgiveness this day.

At first comprehension was slow in coming. Blood flushed her cheeks as Debra struggled to understand. Lips moved in silent agitation, her breath audible and brows deeply furrowed. Eyes slowly widened and gaped at Edith as the blood drained from her face. “Then . . . you’re—”

“Yes,” Edith cried, “I’m your mother. I’m so sorry for what happened. I didn’t mean it. Please, Debra, believe me. I didn’t mean it.” Rushing to take her daughter’s hand, Debra instinctive leaned away in confusion, chest heaving, a heaviness closing in about her, unable to get enough air.

“She’s hyperventilating,” Damon warned, feeling Debra’s heart racing, her thoughts spinning, throwing out flashes of the past, of wishes and torment.

Theron hastily dropped the head of the bed and Rowan flattened her hand over Debra’s solar plexus, letting the heat of her touch-healing relax the diaphragm while applying pressure to several nerves at the base of the neck and shoulder.

The attack eased almost immediately. Damon kept Debra on the bed, giving her time to catch her breath and a moment to adjust to the truth. Their bond allowed him to reassure her there would be no more surprises. The secret of her parents was the last hurdle to overcome.

Gut-wrenching sobs intruded as reality slowly returned to normal. Held tightly in Manton’s brawny arms, Edith cried in abandoned wretchedness like a child. Both Eron and Manton encouraged their friend to let it all go, to get the poison of the past finally and forever out of her heart. Now they could all join together on the same path toward obtaining a new future.

The tightly knit group of family and friends all watched as Debra shifted off the bed and moved to stand before Manton as he gently rocked Edith. Defenseless against such heartbreak, the big man waited for Debra’s judgment with tears glittering in his eyes. Today the Thalian nation would judge the consort’s compassion and control toward her people.

“Edith,” Debra said, sounding lost, her hand resting lightly on the older woman’s shoulder.

Slow to turn around, Edith finally faced her daughter, sniffing loudly and wiping streaming tears from her face. Manton remained behind her for support in case his instincts were wrong.

“I’ve always loved you, Edith,” Debra began slowly, softly. “I can’t tell you how many times I wished you had been my mother instead of Dorothy.” The familiar heartbeat continued to rapidly pound in Debra’s head. “You’re still afraid, so there must be more to tell. I just want you to know . . . I love you mother.” With a moist, lopsided grin, she gave Edith’s shoulder a little shake. “That doesn’t mean I’m not mad as hell at all your manipulating and deceptions. But I am ready to listen with an open mind.”

Surrounded by grunts and chortles of good humor from the others in the room, Debra glanced at Damon. “In the last few days I’ve learned that shit happens to everyone and we all do the best we can with what we’ve got.” She touched fingertips to Edith’s wet cheek. “I know you, the kind of person you are, and I know you love me.”

Edith threw herself into Debra’s arms, fiercely hugging for the first time as mother and daughter. Now it was tears of joy sliding down her reddened cheeks. But Edith wasn’t alone. Giving them privacy to enjoy the moment, the others stepped away, blinking back tears and dabbing at wet lashes.

Holding her mother at arm’s length, Debra suddenly laughed at the wide smudges of black soot smeared across the front of Edith’s green summer top and cotton pants. Frayed nerves made ruined clothes seem like the funniest thing since slapstick and had everyone laughing uproariously.

“Please,” Eron choked, holding the stitch in his side. He couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed so hard. Seeing those he loved flushed with happiness sent a surge of hope through his soul. It was time to reveal the final pieces of the puzzle. “Please, everyone find a seat and I’ll tell you what I found during Debra’s evaluation.”

March 25, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Twelve Part 2

“Don’t move,” Damon quietly commanded and cautiously eased in front of Manton. “Wait outside,” he whispered.

Head to toe Damon was covered in enough greasy, black soot to hide the color of his silver-teal jumpsuit. The same goo seemed to line his mouth and throat, the vile taste threatening to heave his stomach. Awakening only moments ago on the OT platform, he had found Rowan and Eron with him, dazed but conscious, and looking just as ragged. Fear had him racing back down the hall to the crisis room, the meld severed and Debra’s mind closed to him.

The filtration activators shutoff and the ceiling vents closed; the stench of soot almost overwhelming. A soft sizzling sound drew his attention to the melting booth window. Eyebrows lifted in mute admiration. Composition of the triple pane safety glass was hard enough to withstand an energy blast fired at pointblank range. Whatever Debra hit it with had punched a hole through the middle, almost liquefying the glass down to the frame instead of shattering into razor sharp shrapnel.

Movement from the back corner snapped his head around at the same time as the backup lights came on. Debra stood, shifting slowly, side to side, her blood red eyes focused on something unseen in the distance. Hands and fingers twitched awkwardly as larger muscles in arms and legs jerked defensively.

Without warning, the aura disappeared, revealing just how transparent her skin had become. Damon could hear the persistent soft whimpers trapped in her throat, the deeply frantic breaths sawing fast and furious from flaring nostrils.

“She’s reliving the nightmare,” Eron said grimly from the doorway, a blackened hand clutching the filthy jumpsuit material against his chest—reassurance that his body hadn’t been cleaved in two while caught up in Debra’s hell.

The intensity of the nightmare, the absolute persuasive immersion of the mind’s senses; his eyes blinked in astonishment as he rubbed his aching chest. What his battered body now suffered went far beyond dream reality and into psychic torture. How Rowan had survived hours of Debra’s nightmare was a testament to her singular strength of self.

As a practicing subliminal translator, Eron agreed with contemporary theories that the conscious mind did not switch on and off with wakefulness or sleep. But rather provided release from physical restrictions through consciously-created dreams.

Ancient Thalians were convinced the conscious mind was the road taken in life while the subconscious was the map of all existence. As an observer Eron’s task was to gather the clues and symbolism from the conscious journey and interpret them using the map of the subconscious.

The arduous trek into Debra’s mind had confirmed many of his growing suppositions, and all the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place.

Arms raised to prevent Eron from getting too close, Damon continued his efforts to probe Debra’s mind, yet failed to penetrate her sealed barriers. “How do we snap her out of it?” he demanded tightly, knowing better than to try and tangle with her autonomic defenses. “I can’t reach her. She’s closed to me.”

Both men heard the popping sound and turned, staring at Rowan’s extended hand, holding what looked like a toy handgun.  Manton stood behind her loading a second gun in case the first injection wasn’t enough. In unison everyone looked over at Debra, the feathered dart piercing her stomach, and waited for a reaction.

“Ro, what the hell are you doing?” Damon blurted angrily, searing his sister with a dangerous look.

Rowan passed off the empty tranquilizer gun to Manton and accepted the loaded weapon. “We can’t get near her with her autonomic defenses active.” She held up a palm-size gun with a six-inch barrel. “I wasn’t taking any chances this time. I borrowed these tranquilizer guns from Mica this morning.”

“He actually let you take weapons out of his human arsenal collection?” Eron interrupted, stunned.

Her shoulders shrugged, tellingly, eyes averting her brother’s glare. “I was in a hurry,” she said tersely, glancing at each dubious face. “I’ll clean them before putting them back,” she groused, hoping grand master Mica remained ignorant of the temporary pilfering from his prized collection of earth weapons.

All eyes returned to Debra, her black-streaked face like camouflage against the heavily scorched corner and dark sweatshirt. Almost six-feet of muscle and bone slowly weaved as her body fought to expel the impairing drug. Mouths gaped as the cylindrical mental dart wiggled on its own, bit by bit, then ejected from Debra’s stomach to bounce noisily several times on the hard floor.

Rowan swallowed stiffly, pressing dry lips together. “The drug should knock her out, hopefully stopping the nightmare.” She placed a hand on Damon’s rigid shoulder. “Enough time for you to reactivate the meld and let her know she’s safe.”

Debra stumbled, taking a small step forward, eyelids closing in exaggerated slowness over blood red orbs. Each time heavy eyelids fluttered open the bold red had diminished, until only a faint pink remained to color the whites of her eyes. In silence, Debra slid down the wall, a heap of uncoordinated limbs, yet aware enough to be thankfully free of the bloody nightmare. In the gathering delirium that filled her mind, she found Damon waiting for her.

A collective sigh lightly echoed in the room as Debra’s chin dropped heavily to her chest, a clear sign that she was out cold. Everyone looked to Damon, who nodded in acknowledgment of the reestablished meld, before helping hands cautiously lifted her to the damaged chair.

Rowan checked the pulse in the slender neck, avoiding Debra’s hands that could grab with astounding speed and the kinetic energy that continued to arc gently between her fingers. As a precaution, Rowan forced a small stream of kinetic adrenaline into Debra’s system to overcome the nauseating withdrawal symptoms that would soon follow.

‘We’ve got about fifteen minutes before she comes around,” Rowan stated briefly. She hesitated, watching Eron whisper something to Manton just outside the door, his dark eyebrows lifting in a combination of surprise and unease. Using the bond between them, Rowan opened herself, sensing Manton’s heightened concern, before he finally nodded in agreement and left the room.

Curious, but not willing to press the issue, Rowan spread her hands in a questioning gesture at Eron.  “So what did your evaluation find?” she asked succinctly.

“Manton’s having Theron move any staff out of the OT lounge,” Eron said evasively. “Once Debra’s conscious, we’ll all be more comfortable there.” He looked down at his filthy hands and jumpsuit. “I’d like to at least wash my hands and face before we get started.”

Brother and sister swiftly glanced at each other as the older man turned to leave. “What is it, Eron? Please.” Rowan implored, afraid for Damon and Debra and the hope she represented.

“It’s complicated.” His gaze lingered over anxious faces, noting the candid resemblance in their features. Over the years he had evaluated them, taught them, helped ease their youthful fears; always feeling so much pride and love. Rowan and Damon had become like his own. With a sigh of resignation he straightened, wondering how much damage the truth was going to leave behind this day. “If I’m reading everything right, and I usually do,” he muttered, “the initial trauma goes back twenty-three years.”

Eron could almost see the wheels of Damon’s mind churning, sifting through those long ago memories. Watched the younger man’s eyes suddenly stop and slowly rise up to stare at him with such certainty.

“You’re talking about when Trevon died,” Damon said bluntly.

Eron nodded. The archives still listed many unanswered questions surrounding the actual cause of Trevon’s death. Massive cell disruption made findings incomplete; it appeared the virus had done its worst, but didn’t explain the extensive smoldering burns on clothing, or the singed hair that covered his body. None who were present had any memories of the actual time of death to help piece all the events together. So the evidence had been taken at face value and those left behind to mourn were coddled and cared for. And life went on.

It hurt dredging up memories he had worked hard to forget. Look to the future had been the rallying cry when dreams of living on the surface had died with the colonists and craftsmen. Eron struggled to focus on the present, his mind and body tired. Maybe he had seen too many generations come and go and it was time to see to his own Farewell. Yet there was always that small ray of hope, of one day standing in the sunlight or seeing healthy Thalian children playing in green fields of wildflowers.

Eron licked black smeared lips and grimaced at the foul taste on his tongue. He really did want a shower in the worst way. But the past was waiting, as were Rowan and Damon.

Theron entered the charred room with a tray of bottled water and passed the cold drinks around. “The lounge is ready,” he said attentively, “with fresh uniforms laid out and lots of cleaner and towels.” He turned to Rowan. “There’s a gurney in the hallway if you’d like to move Debra to the lounge now.”

Still cupping the nape of Debra’s neck, Damon calmly offered, “She’s still under the drug, but we won’t have any trouble transferring her to the bed.” With the meld firmly activated, Damon sensed nothing of what Eron found from the past. All trace of the nightmare had receded.

At Rowan’s nod Theron wheeled the bed beside the reclining chair, hands grabbing at shoulders and legs, each cautiously keeping a good distance from those lethal hands and the arcing energy that continued to lovingly caressed Debra’s fingers.

OT on-duty staff was on standby and waiting in Isolated Recovery in case they were needed. The huge Operating Theater stood empty and silent as the small group entered the brightly lit lounge. Comfortable sofas and chairs were scattered about the long rectangular-shaped room. The food case on the nearby wall had been freshly stocked that morning by Terrace staff, providing everything from nutritional snacks to full meals. True to his word, Theron had restocked the cooler with ice cold bottles of water and juices, and a table had been set up at the far end with a dozen bottles of spray cleaner and old towels that were destined for recycling.

The room was quiet as everyone took up a bottle of mild spray solvent, normally used for safely cleaning grease and grime from sensitive maintenance equipment. Thick towels came away from faces and hands disgustingly black and rank smelling. The laundry bin quickly filled with towels and jumpsuits destined for the incinerator. It wasn’t a long hot shower, but better than suffocating beneath a dense layer of tar.

The cold sweet juice felt refreshing on his raw throat as Eron stared out the large tinted window at the park. From the third level only the nearby treetops were visible, with the flowerbeds and green lawn stretching out into the distance. Beyond the far rise his mind visualized the stately black marble altar standing alone in the valley of souls, a testament to Ruthie and the hundreds of others who had become a part of the beauty of Tantria. Without warning, his tired voice filled the silence.

“After Kalon died, Trevon refused to return to the ship,” Eron said tonelessly, watching Thalians and humans go about their work and pleasures. “He wanted to die in his new home in Lincoln County, with the woman he loved and many of his family around him.”

He turned to find them all hovering about Debra’s bed, their eyes following him as he moved restlessly about the room. Only Damon felt secure enough to clean the soot from his wife’s face and hands while she remained unconscious from the drug.

“It was a weekday, well into the morning. And since no one came forward, it was presumed that only Edith and Debra were present when Trevon died. I can now confirm that was the case,” Eron grimly admitted. “We found Edith unconscious beside Trevon in the backyard by the gate. Debra wasn’t in the house or on the grounds. A search spread out and found her outside the fenced-in yard at the bottom of the ravine, badly bruised and in a coma.” He glanced at Damon, remembering another time. “It was later determined that she had been linked to Trevon when he died.”

“And you think that’s the cause of her psychic disabilities?” Rowan asked doubtfully. As one who had been inside Debra’s mind, who knew firsthand the younger woman’s strength and determination, Rowan just wasn’t convinced.

Damon shook his head, feeling the same doubts as his sister. “No, that can’t be it.” He looked around at the faces of friends and family. “I suffered a severed link with father when he died. Remember? I was left in a coma for three days, but that didn’t stunt my psychic growth.”

Rowan could see it in their eyes, the dawning of the unimaginable. But it wasn’t possible. It just couldn’t be possible. Her voice came in a rasping whisper, “You think Debra killed Trevon?” Stunned into anger she shouted, “She was a baby, Eron. A baby. The elders listed the cause of death as the virus. Are you saying that was a lie? That the elders and past leaders are somehow involved in a conspiracy, a cover-up of a two-year-old baby supposedly strong enough to kill her father?”

March 18, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Twelve Part 1

Every precaution was taken to ensure the safety of all involved in Debra’s upcoming psychic evaluation. Rowan and a small team of medical custodians opened up the seldom used crisis room just off the Operating Theater.

Known as the drill cell, the comfortably lit white room had a haunted feel for many of the staff. Most of the first generation bi-humans had spent time strapped into the permanently bolted, semi-prone chair when psychic abilities needed to be altered or blocked to reduce the chance of accidents or death. But in the end death had claimed them anyway.

A mental block was a physically created barrier, psychically positioned in the brain, so the chemical recall of one memory or many was permanently impeded. Occasionally a block would fail to control psychic or emotional outbursts. In such cases mechanical medicine stepped in and microscopically altered, or drilled, a tiny core area of the temporal and sometimes frontal lobes.

Years ago blocking had failed twice with Debra’s mother. After she had recovered from Damon’s mental beating, Dorothy Hall’s frontal and temporal lobes had been carefully drilled using a pinprick laser beam that fired from a small metal grommet in the ceiling. Focused through a crystal cylinder, the laser was powered by Thalian kinetic energy and psychically guided inside the brain by the experienced operator. The ensuing drilled hole was so miniscule that complete recovery was almost instant once the procedure was completed.

Many of the city’s residents felt uneasy that Debra’s unpredictability now demanded use of the room, as though a curse continued to linger by all those who had been held immobile in that austere, white padded chair.

In spite of Debra being so much stronger than her sisters or that the cell was simply a precaution in this case for its insulating properties and damping field, no amount of reassurance from Rowan or the elders seemed to make a difference in everyone’s mood as the hour approached.

Over the years the ten-by-ten square, windowless room had become nothing more than a large storage closet of spare parts incase of a sporadic breakdown on the operating platform or backup databases. With everything already tucked into rolling shelving units, cleanup took under thirty minutes, leaving only the lone chair in the center of the white flame-retardant room.

Overseeing the chair from the side, a large window panel slid up revealing a compact control booth. Rowan glanced over, catching Theron’s eye, his grim stare a reminder of the room’s indubitable purpose. No Thalian could ever truly revere the practice in spite of the need to help those in pain. The thought of losing one’s psychic abilities was no less devastating than amputating one or more limbs to survive.

Rowan had absolutely no intention of using the drill procedure this day. Damon had argued well into the previous night that Debra’s autonomic defenses would protect her from any mental or physical threat, no matter how unintentional. All agreed, under no circumstances was anyone to remain in the room with her once Eron started his assessment. The team could only hope that whatever buried trauma was at the heart of her debilitating fears would respond to intellectual stimulation rather than the need for force, or worse.

Damon and Rowan accompanied Eron as observers into the control booth while Theron guided Debra into the small room. Once the cross-straps automatically locked into each side of the chair, Theron smiled and gave her restrained hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Just relax,” he instructed Debra easily, all thoughts of the past set aside. “There won’t be any discomfort. Damon will meld with you first, then Eron will let you know when he’s about to proceed.”

Taking a deep breath, Debra nodded, her fingertips momentarily seeking out the palm of his hand. Images flashed liked colored snapshots in her mind. Death was taking its toll on his bleeding soul. Like many, work had become his passion and pleasure in life. And family was never really gone in the Thalian collective mind. He cared deeply for Rowan and their relationship, but loved another who would never know. Hope and desperation had somehow become intertwined and he was now willing to bet everything on the strength of the sovereign’s consort.

The door closed behind Theron with a thump, the locking mechanism sealing the portal with a decisive snicking click. Securely bound to the chair, Debra relaxed as best she could in the quiet, empty room, trying not to think of all the misplaced faith in her debatable abilities, and opened herself to the unknown.

Gently, Damon fused with her mind, like so many times over the years. Always near. Always protective. Blending his thoughts and emotions until the lines between one and the other faded, allowing them to breathe and move as one. Usually the dream world appeared once the melding was complete. Not this time. Instead, she was given the unique perspective of seeing herself through Damon’s eyes.

She never noticed before how baggy her black sweats looked on her slender frame; and just as quickly dismissed the thought. The clothes were warm and comfortable and came in extra long.

Damon gave her a mental hug, his amusement more a shimmer between them than words. The Thalian image for beautiful unfolded like an exquisite blossom, leaving little doubt that he found her pleasing in every way.

“Remember,” his thoughts caressed over her senses, “you are the bravest and strongest woman I’ve ever known. I’m with you, so just go with whatever happens.”

The human subconscious was often defined as nothing more than a repository of all things that pass through the chaotic conscious mind. For Thalians the subconscious was more substantial and acted as a spiritual wellspring of life and the truth of existence, of the expected paths and potentials of an individual, and a collective of all the mental, emotional, and physical aspects that drive the conscious mind in action and reaction. It is a permanent account that offers recourse for change or perfection.

Those gifted with subliminal insight, like Eron, used the subconscious knowledge to see the future potential of a child or to pinpoint where the conscious mind had deviated, often due to sickness or injury or some emotional trauma too horrendous to endure.

Eron’s steady, courteous voice came through the room’s speaker system. “I’m ready to begin, Debra. The whole process should take about ten minutes.”

Fear had her heart beating a little faster than normal. Not enough to spike her adrenaline and call out the warrior, though. Yet she couldn’t help but wonder about those younger and weaker than herself. “You actually do this to small children?” Debra asked incredulously.

His soft, patient chuckle filled the room. “Normally I would test in my office over a hot cup of tea while my student worked on a project or listened to music. Evaluating is completely non-invasive.” Eron looked directly at Damon so Debra could see him. “Once the evaluation is done, I’m going to be looking deeper for a root cause to your fear of channeling and linking—”

“But my defenses sometimes have a mind of their own,” Debra rattled off by rote. Before coming to Crystal Lake Acres it was rare for her to have a problem with one of her abilities let alone harm anyone. Meeting her Thalian relatives was turning out to be more demoralizing than reassuring.

Eron grinned. “Exactly, my dear. Let’s begin.”

Manton waited outside the booth by the door, glancing up and down the empty hallway. Security teams had been posted at all OT exits as a preventative measure. Not that he was expecting a disturbance of any kind. But emotions were running high. Death was so closely associated with the crisis room that residents had great difficulty separating the past from the present; of extricating Debra from the horrors suffered by her sisters.

Of course, of maximum concern by those who had experienced Debra’s defenses firsthand was whether containment in the cell would be enough. Manton rubbed his chest, just one of many places on his body that had been badly burned by her adaptive energy defenses. Debra may have healed his injuries better than new, but memories of that sickening smell and slicing pain still caused his mind to shudder.

He checked his personal com-link for the time and was surprised to find only five minutes had passed. The bond between him and Rowan was quiet, a clue, maybe, that all was going well with Eron and Debra. A lack of space in the booth and unnecessary skills meant his presence was redundant, forcing him to stand alone in the hall.

It was the waiting that was driving him crazy. What he needed was a damn good workout. He smiled suddenly, thinking of the sparring match with Debra; more fun than he could remember in a long time. Videos of that one match had gone viral throughout the Thalian nation in a matter of hours. Interest in hand-to-hand combat had his classes overflowing with ready students all wanting the advanced training. All wanting to be worthy warriors like the sovereign’s consort.

Manton had to admit Debra was anything but boring, her abilities often appearing larger than life. He had known many Thalians of considerable psychic strength, but none had captured the imagination of a nation, or its hopes, like Debra. One would think her bi-human physiology would tend more toward a diluted blending of both species, much like those who came before her. All commendable women of consequence and remembrance. But not one with the emotional and physical intensity of Debra’s mind and will.

Why the disparity still remained the big question in the labs and research caucuses up on medical-science. Any children between Damon, a known Vion, and Debra, a suspected Vion, did more than lift one’s eyebrows in mind-boggling speculation. With a grin, Manton hoped that any forthcoming offspring had an extra helping of their mother’s brass and natural grit.

A sudden muffled blast from inside the booth took Manton completely off guard, the explosive concussion slightly tilting the solid metal door in its frame and shoving him across the hall. Blaring amid the shock and confusion that crowded his mind, Rowan’s emotions seemed to skyrocket with fear before settling into a humming bundle of nerves and concern. As far as he could tell from his wife’s rattled senses, no one was dead.

Yet how far the blast was felt was anyone’s guess. Manton ignored protocol and telepathically notified on-duty security officers to have all personnel standby for possible crowd control. The current duty-shift was to present a calm visible presence on the third level and double up the watch at OT exits. When asked his opinion, Manton had simply said, the crisis room was living up to its earned reputation.

Keying in his override code, Manton had to pry the door ajar with brute strength. Once opened, a steam bath of vapors and noxious fumes billowed into the hallway bringing instant tears and racking coughs. Down on hands and knees he fell over an unconscious Eron in the doorway and tugged the older man further into the hallway and into waiting rescuing hands.

Blinded by smoke, he heard the telling snicking click of the crisis room lock releasing and sprang up from the floor like a provoked defensive tackle. “No,” he roared, pinning Theron to the sealed door, succumbing to a coughing fit as a blue aura formed a skintight protective shield around his soot-covered body. “Get the others out of the booth and into clean air,” he gasped. “I’ll take care of Debra.”

Theron nodded, backhanding a choking cough, and followed Manton’s lead by activating his own cloaking aura. Very little clean air was being filtered from the noxious environment into each cloak. Both men had mere minutes to get the others to safety before having to withdraw to fresh air themselves.

Only a handful of seconds had transpired since the accident, but waiting for the filtration override to kick in made it seem like hours.

Automatic sensors instantly relayed data back to maintenance and security, confirming hazardous air and no active fire. Manton slowly opened the crisis room door. Thick, swirling black filled the small space. He could hear the decon-filtration activators rapidly sucking up smoke and toxic vapors, the strong intake drives of the central artificial oxygen core swiftly treating and purifying, eventually blowing the remaining waste deep into the dormant fault under the mountain.

As the smoke dissipated, he saw the empty chair, the self-locking straps mangled and broken. The melted white padding scorched and smoldering, adding to the heavy stench that left a chemical taste in his mouth. Crouched in the far corner, a shimmering blue light suddenly rose up in the thinning blackness, outlining a tall, slender shape.

“It’s Manton, Debra,” he said guardedly, his throat raw and in need of something cold and wet. “Can you hear me?”

The activators continued to pull the fumes quickly up into the open vents in the ceiling. Manton got his first clear look at the room and gaped in awe. It was like someone had taken a paintbrush and drunkenly made thick black lines around the room. Only it wasn’t black paint, but long continuous burn marks.

Debra stood silently in the corner as he gradually approached, her eyes lowered, her skin almost completely white behind the aura. His heart nearly stopped beating when blood red eyes suddenly glared at him, no recognition, energy arcing angrily around her hands inside the aura.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.