"We are not now, nor have we ever been, alone on this planet." With those words, the President of the United States reveals to the world the existence of the Æthereal, the nearly immortal beings who serve as guardians against the Grey menace. Is humanity ready to share their world with real fire-breathing dragons? For many normal humans like Danny Trasker, their lives are turned upside down as they become partners in the Guardians. For the terrorists, the revelation of the Æthereals is a call for Jihad..
Eric Johansson was high above the city watching the crowds gathering around the Washington Monument. It had been an incredible two years since he had been partnered with Judy Deavers for the first time. They had both been FBI agents then; she was the Special Agent in Charge of the Spokane office, while he had been head of the Domestic Counter-Terrorism Department. Drawn together to solve a series of bombings, they had been plunged into the secret of the Æthereal. At the time, the existence of the Æthereal had been so secret, only the Presidents of the United States and the reigning monarch in Great Britain knew of them. Then came the renewed war with the Grays, an alien species determined to take over the planet and strip it of everything useful. At that time, it became apparent that the secret must be told. In discussions with the other governments of the world, it was determined the President of the United States would make the announcement to all countries.
The President had declared a special holiday, mandating the closing of all businesses and schools. All the network television and radio stations had preempted their regular programming to cover the announcement. It was also being broadcast globally, simulcast in every language using the phenomenal translating staff of the United Nations. All the White House bulletin had said was the President, in coordination with all the governments of the world, would be making an announcement of global significance. The media, ever doubting official pronouncements, had immediately contacted the embassies of every nation and had learned it was true; every single nation in the world had agreed with the upcoming statement. That alone was newsworthy; no one could recall any other time where every government had agreed about anything.
The large black dragon drifted high in the sky, waiting. ‘How much longer, Eric?’ came the thought in Eric’s mind. Eric chuckled at the impatience he detected in that thought. One would think Ebon the Black could be a little more patient since he’d been waiting for this day for over sixty-five million years.
‘I’m sure you’re in touch with Astra down on the ground. She’s in a much better position to know than I am, Ebon. After all, I’m up here with you.’ Eric thought back to Ebon. Eric enjoyed the telepathic link he had with Ebon since they had formed their partnership.
The Washington Monument formed the backdrop behind the President. The clear blue sky, lightly dotted with small white clouds, and the bright sunshine completed the scene. It was a perfect image for the cameras. Numerous foreign dignitaries were gathered on the stage behind the President, including the Canadian Prime Minister, the British Prime Minister, the Russian President, and ambassadors from every nation. Even the Secretary-General of the United Nations was present. At the scheduled moment, the President of the United States stepped up to the podium and began to speak.
“My fellow Americans and all citizens of Earth, I am speaking to you on this momentous day on behalf of all the governments on this planet. What I have to tell you is going to change how we each view our world and the universe. It will sound both fantastic and perhaps frightening, but I ask you all to hear me out.” The President took a sip from the glass of water on the podium.
“First, I must tell you that mankind is not now, nor have we ever been, alone on this planet. We share this world with another sentient species, or perhaps I should say, they have shared it with us since they were here long before the evolution of mankind. There have been legends about them from every part of the world, but our modern world decided those tales were merely folklore, or allegories. When mankind took its first steps into the atomic age, another species made themselves known to President Truman in an effort to stop the development of nuclear weapons. When underground testing began, they tried again. At that time, President Eisenhower entered into what has since been known as the Æthereal Accord, an agreement to protect their secret while they continued to protect our continued existence.”
The President took another pause to sip from his water. Now comes the first shock. “Events of the last year have made it necessary for us to now reveal them to the world at large. Not out of fear, but friendship. For as long as mankind has existed, they have watched over this world, and us, protecting both from harm. It is time for them to be able to move openly among us, for we must now join in a new relationship, that of partners in the continued security of our world. They call themselves the Æthereal, for they regard themselves as beings of the air. Our legends have called them dragons.”
‘Now, Ebon,’ came the mental summons from Astra.
Ebon the Black banked his massive wings, plummeting toward the monument grounds. At first, the crowds took no notice until his huge shadow raced over them. At the first signs of panic, the President shouted, “Everyone, be still! There is no reason for fear!” The sound of his voice stopped the retreat before it even began.
As Ebon flared his mighty wings and settled to the ground next to the platform, the President said, “Ladies and gentlemen of the world, I now present Ebon the Black, Guardian of Earth, and his human partner, Eric Johansson.” The President timed his words to match the moment Ebon’s feet touched down alongside the platform. Eric slipped off the dragon’s back and walked over to the President. “Mr. President,” Eric whispered as he passed the President to stand alongside Astra and Judy Deavers.
Ebon’s midnight black scales glittered in the brilliant sunlight. His massive wings were now furled back along his sides. He looked exactly like something from a book of mythical creatures—over three hundred feet in length with a long tail and serpentine neck, huge ebony eyes, long snout, and teeth just over six feet in length. Huge claws on his twenty-five foot wide feet; the only thing missing was a blast of flame from his mighty throat. ‘Don’t you dare!’ Astra thought to him, using the tight, personal channel they had since they had hatched in the same nest over sixty-five million years in the past.
The President stepped back up to the podium and the crowd settled down to listen. “Ebon the Black is responsible for the protection of this planet, and he has been doing this for millions of years. He has not been alone, for their whole species is dedicated to that mission. He has saved us more times than we will ever know. I must say again to you all; the Æthereal are our friends and are not to be feared.”
He paused once again. “I know many of you are wondering how they have managed to live among us all this time without our knowledge. The Æthereal are also shape shifters. Many have moved among us disguised as humans. In fact, you have been looking at another Æthereal all this time. I now present Astra the White, the Master Healer for Earth and the Liaison to Humanity.” Astra stepped forward, the cameras zoomed in for a close-up, and the world stared at the incredibly beautiful woman.
Her warm voice soothed any residual fears in the audience. “Good people, it is a pleasure to stand among you revealed. We have eagerly awaited this moment when we can openly share the beauties of this world with you. We each have much to share with you to make this a better place to live.” She stepped back from the podium, smiled at the cameras, and then walked off the platform into the cleared area opposite Ebon. There, in front of everyone, she called up the nimbus of blue that presaged the formation of a portal. The light enclosed her and then grew to a large blue glowing sphere. When it faded, Astra the White stood revealed in her natural form—a dragon, solid white with iridescent highlights, two hundred feet long, with her wings slightly unfurled in the soft summer breeze. Her large silver eyes stared back at the crowd.
“Astra’s human partner is Judy Deavers.” The President gestured for Judy to step forward. The crowd suddenly realized that Judy was wearing a white leather suit, similar to what a motorcyclist would wear. Judy stepped across the platform and sprang onto Astra’s back, slipping into the flying harness that anchored her to her seat. Simultaneously, Eric returned to Ebon’s back.
As soon as Judy was settled, Astra sprang into the air away from the crowd. At the same moment, Ebon also returned to the air. The crowd was enthralled as the dragons soared and swooped, and then they all gasped as one when Ebon let loose a blast of flame that arced through the sky. The legend was complete; the Æthereal were fire-breathing dragons.
The President calmly stood at the podium, letting the crowd adjust to the new reality, a world that now included the presence of no-longer-mythical dragons. That was the easy part. Any minute now, it’s going to dawn on these people that I said the Æthereal had been defending us and they’re going to start to wonder from what. He could see the crowd slowly starting to turn back to the podium, still astonished by what they had just witnessed.
“The media has had a good time speculating about the tremendous explosions six months ago near the moon. There have been stories of a nuclear war in space between the military forces of the United States and Russia. I will now tell you the truth about that day, and reveal to you the reason the Æthereal have finally come forward.” The President paused to let the moment build. “For decades, there have been stories about unidentified flying objects, little gray aliens, cattle mutilations, and abductions. These stories are all true.” The President paused to let the crowd settle down after the stir his last statement had created. “There is a race of beings we call the Grays who have been trying to take this planet for their own use. Six months ago, they came with a full invasion force. Between the Æthereals and the use of tactical nuclear weapons, we were able to defeat that force. We have complete documentation and evidence to provide to the media for their own verification.”
Looking steadily at the camera, the President continued, “The Gray threat is real. The Æthereal are real. The time has come for mankind to accept our own responsibility in defending this planet from aggression outside our world. You all saw Eric Johansson and Judy Deavers. They are partners with the Æthereal and they are the nucleus around which we are going to build The Guardians, a joint Æthereal-Human force for the defense of us all.”
* * * *
“Well, I think that went well,” the President said, snapping off the television. They had been watching the usual talking heads discussing the President’s speech and the implications of the Æthereal.
“I agree,” boomed Ebon’s deep voice. Now in human form and clad in black leathers similar to those worn by Eric Johansson, Ebon was seated at the President’s side in the residence portion of the White House. “It was amazing to be there in natural form in front of all those humans and not have any of them running away.”
“Ebon, behave yourself,” chided his sister, Astra. “Mr. President, this has been a good beginning. The question is what we do next.”
“According to my Press Secretary, the White House switchboard is being swamped with calls for you four.” The President looked at each of them. “I would suggest you resign yourselves to a period of being media celebrities. It would be the easiest method to both get your message out, and to make people comfortable with the Æthereal.”
“Not a bad idea,” Judy Deavers spoke up. “I think a few appearances on some of the major talk shows would have a great impact. We could do the major morning shows, such as the Today Show and Good Morning America.”
Astra smiled, “I want to do the show with Regis and Kelly. I like her so much better than Kathy Lee.”
The President called his Press Secretary in and explained what he wanted done. In a few minutes, the man returned with a scheduled series of interviews and guest appearances for the four.
* * * *
Regis was so excited, he could barely contain himself. He chatted excitedly with Kelly as the show began. “Today, we’re in for a real treat. Our guests today are making their first appearance on any show.” He looked at the studio audience. “Please welcome the Guardians. Ebon the Black, Astra the White, and their human partners, Eric Johansson and Judy Deavers.” As the four strode onto the stage, the audience went wild with cheers and applause.
Ebon, clad all in black leather, was an imposing figure in his human guise. He stood almost seven feet tall, with the heavy musculature of a body builder, but he moved with a predatory grace. His black hair was combed straight back. It was his eyes, black as space itself, which dominated his face.
Next to him, Eric seemed diminished, even though Eric was a large man himself. Black leather also covered his six foot four inch frame, emphasizing his broad shoulders and narrow waist. A former SEAL and FBI agent, Eric was a man who could handle himself in almost any situation.
Astra was not as tall as her brother, a mere six feet, but where he was dark, she was light. Her hair was the purest white, hanging nearly to her waist in a shimmering waterfall. Her white leather outfit hugged a slim, athletic figure. To call her beautiful was to say the Mona Lisa was simply a painting; she transcended the everyday standards. Her eyes defied description for they seemed to shift in color atop a base of shining silver.
Judy Deavers, the shortest of the quartet, was also clad in white leather. She stood a respectable five feet nine inches with shoulder-length auburn hair. She, too, was slim and athletic as befitting the former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Spokane office.
Regis was clearly taken aback by Ebon, who loomed above him even seated on the guest stools on the stage. “Wow, you are big!”
Astra’s delightful laugh defused any tension that might have been caused by Regis’ remark. She said, “He just does that for effect. He needs everyone to know that he’s The Guardian, even when in human form.”
“Well, it works!” Regis responded. “Are you all so intimidating?”
Astra answered. “The males all tend to be large, especially the warrior classes like the Blacks and Browns. The warrior females are slightly smaller, while the Golds and Whites are the smallest.”
Kelly asked, “What do the colors mean?”
“The Blacks, Browns, Reds and Oranges are all warriors,” Ebon answered. “The Blues are Scientists and the Greens are explorers. The Golds are our historians, while the Whites, like Astra, are Healers.
“Since our primary mission is to defend Earth and Paradise, over half of the species is devoted to the warrior class,” Ebon continued.
“Paradise?” Regis asked.
“It is another planet we call home. Most of the Æthereal moved there once humans began to spread across the Earth,” Astra explained.
Eric looked at Regis. “The Æthereal are capable of opening a doorway, or portal, between two locations. They can then move through that doorway and travel immense distances in a split second.”
“Wow!” Regis looked at Judy Deavers. “What’s it like, flying on a dragon?”
“It’s incredible. The feeling of freedom, of being up in the sky like that, far surpasses anything found in flying a plane or helicopter.” Looking at her partner, she added, “Sharing the mental bonds simultaneously with Astra makes it even more exhilarating. I can feel the wind on her wings and the way her senses scan the area.”
Kelly looked confused as she asked, “Mental bonds?”
“The Æthereal are telepathic, Kelly. They can communicate with one another from anywhere, although a substantial amount of effort is needed to talk across interstellar distances,” Judy explained. “Think of it as the difference between whispering to someone right next to you, as compared to trying to talk with someone a long way away.”
Kelly turned to Astra. “Can you talk that way with anyone?”
Astra nodded her head slightly. “To a degree, yes. I can make my thoughts clear to anyone. Only those with a compatible mind can answer me.”
Regis turned to Ebon. “So why have you stayed in hiding all this time?’
Ebon smiled. “Well, the last time we roamed the world, you humans used to try to kill us with sharp metal lances while wearing armor and riding a horse.” Ebon chuckled. “And to set the record straight, we never ate virgins or burned villages out of spite.”
“That’s good to know,” Regis quipped. “What can you tell us about the Guardians?”
Now it was Eric’s turn. It had been decided ahead of time that he would be the one to explain the concept of the joint Æthereal-Human force. “As the President explained, up until now, the Æthereal have been defending Earth by themselves. For the most part, they have been highly successful at it. But modern technology has made that task more difficult, despite the accord between our peoples. Advances in radar and weaponry meant that, sooner or later, someone was going to take a shot at one of the Æthereal. And while it wouldn’t hurt the Æthereal, it might interfere with protecting the Earth.”
“Wouldn’t hurt? You mean, even our advanced weapons can’t harm one of you?” Regis asked Ebon.
“An Æthereal in natural form is invulnerable to almost anything,” Ebon added. “For a while, the Grays used an energy beam weapon that hurt us, but a human named Doctor David Borland developed a shield that not only prevents the weapon from harming us, but allows us to turn the effects of the beam back on the one who fired it.”
“That’s amazing!” Regis turned to Eric again. “How bad are the Grays?”
“Pretty bad, Regis,” Eric answered. “The Grays are planet strippers. They move onto a planet, strip it of all its resources, and then move on to another world. They have already ruined perhaps twenty percent of this galaxy.”
“So now they want Earth?” Regis asked.
“They have been after this planet for a very long time,” Ebon added. “The Grays launched the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs in an effort to kill the Æthereal. Only a few of us were killed, including Astra’s mate.”
There was a look of momentary confusion on Regis’ face as he tried to make sense of Ebon’s statement. “Astra’s mate? That would mean...”
“I am over sixty-five million years old, Regis,” Astra said. “No Æthereal has ever died of old age, so we have no idea how long we can live. We are, to all intents and purposes, immortal. We can die as a result of severe injuries sustained in an accident, or from the Grays, but that rarely occurs if there is a Healer nearby.”
There were several seconds of stunned silence, and then the show cut to a commercial. During the interval, Regis wondered whether the Æthereal would take some questions from the audience and both Ebon and Astra agreed.
“And we’re back with the Guardians. Talk about some fascinating stuff! Immortal dragons and alien invaders.” Regis mugged for the camera. “Our guests have graciously consented to take some questions from the audience.” Pointing to a young woman in the third row, Regis said, “Go ahead, miss.”
She stood and took the microphone. “My question is for Ebon. How do you like human women?”
“Lightly roasted with a bit of ketchup,” Ebon replied. He waited for the laughter to subside. “Seriously, my mate would arrange for one of those serious accidents Astra was talking about if I even started thinking about human women. She’s a Red and has a fiery temper.” The audience laughed at the idea that this imposing figure could be intimidated by anyone. “Uh oh, here she is now!”
A blue nimbus appeared on the stage and out stepped the voluptuous Hecate. “You flirting with the humans, Ebon?” Shaking her wild mane of red hair, she strutted over next to Ebon. The skimpy red leather outfit, complete with knee-high boots, showed off every curve of her lush figure. She made every human female present feel like a prepubescent adolescent.
Regis hopped down from his stool so Hecate had somewhere to sit. Ebon turned to the flustered host and said, “Regis, may I present my mate, Hecate?” As Regis took her hand, he looked into her face and was captured by her eyes, which seemed to have flames dancing in the pupils.
“He’s cute. Maybe I’ll keep him.” Hecate smiled at Regis and he remembered to breathe.
Astra’s voice was as frigid as an arctic wind. “Leave him alone, Hecate. He’s our host.”
“Oh, very well.” Hecate sighed. She looked at the woman in the audience who had asked the question. “We Æthereal mate for life, my dear. And when you consider just how long that is for us, it is a serious commitment. Plus I cannot imagine any human female would want to come up against me as the scorned spouse!”
The woman in the audience quickly sat down and another stood to take the microphone, this time a young man in his early twenties.
“My question is about the Guardians. How does one join?”
Eric replied, “That’s an excellent question. For the most part, the Æthereals themselves will select their human partners for the Force. It is vital there be compatibility in the way their minds mesh together. For those who want to help but are not partnered with an Æthereal, we expect there will be many support roles available.” Eric looked out at the audience and into the camera as he continued. “We have been authorized to accept volunteers from the military as well. Service in the Guardians will be considered the same as service in any military branch. Nor is there a restriction regarding nationality. This force will defend the entire planet and is open to everyone.” He paused for a moment. “There will be an announcement within a few days to give those interested the procedure for volunteering. Remember, we’re not just looking for warriors. We will also be looking for scientists, explorers, scribes, historians, and medical personnel to augment the other colors as well.”
A soldier stood up in the back of the audience. Taking the microphone, he asked, “What will the relationship be between the Guardians and the regular military?”
“I’m not sure anyone knows right now.” Eric turned to Ebon. “Any thoughts you’d care to share?”
Ebon stood and walked to the front of the stage. “The Guardians are not interested in the internal politics of the human nations. We do not intend to dictate to anyone. We will not interfere in any nation’s sovereignty. We exist to protect this planet, whether it is from the Grays, or from humans armed with weapons of mass destruction. Any person—any nation—which uses a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon on anyone, will answer to the Guardians. This is not negotiable. We will protect this planet and the penalty for breaking that prohibition will be severe.”
* * * *
Every magazine in the world carried articles about The Guardians. Many of the articles included the history of the Æthereal and their explorations among the stars. The articles included photographs of Astra and Ebon in both human and natural form. Their physical immunity from harm and virtual immortality were stressed. Their ability to portal between locations was put to the test for the media, vanishing from a studio in New York and appearing in a studio in Los Angeles before live cameras.
The call for volunteers resulted in thousands of applications, but only a small percentage of the volunteers were found to be acceptable to the Æthereal. Those selected were immediately taken to Paradise for familiarization and training, plus bonding with their new partner. Unknown to the populace at large, many Æthereal wandered the planet in astral and human form, seeking their perfect partner. This soon became the most effective means of selection. Magazines soon documented tales of people whose whole lives were suddenly turned upside down by the mental contact of an Æthereal saying ‘You are the one.’
by Christopher W. Wilcox, Sr.
Genre: Science Fiction
EBook formats ISBN: 978-1-59374-658-2
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-59374-657-5
Buy this book!
"Æthereal Revealed is just that, a revelation of the strengths and weaknesses, history and abilities, contained within the huge flying dragons known as Æthereal. I look forward to seeing the continuing saga of the human relationships with these creatures and applaud Mr. Wilcox in his decision to pen further installments. Æthereal Revealed is the tale of a future I would look forward to living in." ~ Rating: 8; Reviewed By Marge Conrad, © April 2006, NovelSpot.net
"Even though this reviewer hasn't had the chance to read the first book in the series, Æthereal Revealed captures the imagination. The action comes fast and furious, and the tension builds to a climax not once, but many times, culminating in a tautly, nail-biting conclusion that leaves the reader both satisfied and wanting more at the same time." ~ Rating: 4 Hearts, LoveRomances.com
"As new friends enter the world of the Æthereal series, old friends are leaving and you can't help but get caught up in their lives. ÆTHEREAL REVEALED is a fast paced novel that will leave you aching for the next in the series just as the first one did. Christopher W. Wilcox, Sr. has created a science fiction world that is very close to the elements of our own world, including the times. The only difference is we don't have the magnificent dragons flying the skies. Or is it?" ~ Rating: 5 Hearts, Reviewed by Lysa Demorest, Suite Magazine.
"I liked the relationships between the Æthereals and their partners. The dragons find partners that are compatible to them mentally. The partnership between a green dragon explorer and a photo journalist was my favorite. I also liked seeing new relationships formed with characters from the first book. The concept of humanity accepting a superior species as partners is intriguing. " - Rating: 4 Angels; Fallen Angel Reviews
"Mr. Wilcox has written an extraordinary book full of rich detail and action in the manner of the best adventure writers. Romance is not the focus here, but rather an addition to the storyline. Action, suspense, betrayal and duty are what make this story interesting. The storyline is tight, and even the secondary characters make you want to root for them. Those who are looking for a great story packed with imagination and adventure will want to read this book." ~ Rating: 4 Cups; Coffee Time Romance
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