Aiyana Kaleya Zheutlin had been reading strange languages for the past three weeks, ever since returning to the present and the arctic base of Operation or rather Project Retrograde and discovering how much of the present they’d changed. Something Kelgarries and the fastidious and annoying Dr. Antoine Barnes had mentioned in their briefing when the six time agents got back caught her interest.
She was pouring over photographs and reports on The British Museum’s collection of clay tablets originally discovered in the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh by Austen Henry Layard in 1849. The Library of Nineveh’s King Ashurbanipal was a monumentally historic find. It contained important works, all on baked clay tablets, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Law Code of Hammurabi, the former included a non-Biblical account of a great flood like the one in the Book of Genesis.
The Museum’s collections database counted 30,943 tablets in the entire Nineveh library collection. Most were written in cuneiform and a few in other near east languages. However, Aiyana was looking for clues of the use of a previously unknown language in these records.
The data she was examining was all that was left of the artifacts from Ashurbanipal’s Library. In early Spring of 2012, a small team of ISIS terrorists managed to smuggle the components of a nuclear device into London and assemble it. On Friday, March 30, 2012 at 9:51 a.m. local time, the 10 megaton device, hidden in a small moving truck, detonated less than three blocks from Buckingham Palace killing an estimated 2,337,000 people and injuring millions more.
Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the British Museum were completely consumed by the fireball which extended up to Camden Town and down to Brixton.
In the world Aiyana remembered, the one she lived in before she, Gordon Ashe, and the other four members of their team had traveled over 16,000 years into the past, in the world she once called home, that horrible event had never occurred. Vasnev Romanovich may have lost the Soviet Union in the resultant time change, but in London, millions had died in a nuclear holocaust who had not died before. History had also been denied one of the most remarkable archaeological finds in the last 200 years. The only remaining evidence of its existence was on a protected web server the linguist was now using the internet to examine.
A week later. Aiyana Zheutlin was conducting her own briefing.
“The Royal Library of Nineveh was created by King Ashurbanipal in the early 600s BCE more for his own purposes than his subjects. Most monarchs of that era didn’t know how to read, so they depended on augurs, priests, and scribes to interpret their texts. Ashurbanipal was superstitious and suspicious, almost paranoid by some accounts. He wanted to learn to read himself so he could test the information given to him by his advisers which included the clergy.
“The immediate outcome of Ashurbanipal’s paranoia is that he was responsible for the greatest assemblage of ancient texts collected from throughout the Assyrian empire. Not only would he collect unique originals, but he would have them copied at least once, sending the copies back to their sources rather than the primary texts. It’s believed that the library acquired texts going back two and a half millennia.
“Especially for me, certain key documents served as an ancient filing system referencing all of the documents in the library.”
“But what does all this mean to us, my dear Aiyana? If our focus is on preventing the climate change phenomena, how can any information contained in this now extinct library possibly be relevant?”
“It has to do with the current interpretation of the Forerunner time map, Major Romanovich.” Aiyana wasn’t happy with the idea of Dr. Barnes contributing to her briefing, mainly because he was likely to try to take control of it, but he was the only one present who could make her point successfully.
“The time map changed significantly since the return of Lt. Byrd and his party from the past, but even I was surprised at how much and in what way it changed. We thought we could predict all of the time anomalies and in sequence, visit each point in history that seemed to be contributing to our current difficulties, but this turned out not to be true.
“For reasons I am unclear about, the Library at Nineveh as it existed in the early 7th century BCE holds the key for us to understand and perhaps solve our puzzle. In fact, it is the only clear destination in time currently indicated by the time map.”
“Thank you, Dr. Barnes. As you Americans say, your explanation was as ‘clear as mud.'”
Barnes looked at Romanovich with disdain but before he could respond, Colonel Kelgarries intervened. “Regardless of how little we understand what the time map is showing us, as Dr. Barnes states, the city of Nineveh at or before 612 BCE seems to be our necessary next port of call.”
“What do you hope to find there, Aiyana?” Gordon Ashe was hoping to further defuse the exchange between Romanovich and Barnes.
“In examining one of the key tablets, I discovered a reference to the Forerunner written language.”
“What?” Murdock, who had been sitting back in his chair, suddenly sat upright and, like everyone else in the room, which included all of Ashe’s time agents, stared intently at the historian and linguist.
“Are you sure, Aiyana?”
“Quite, Gordon. Unfortunately what I’ve discovered leads to bad news. Most people assume that all of the Ninevan documents were written on clay tablets, but those are just the ones to survive the fire that ravaged the city when the Babylonians and their allies laid siege to the great city. The fire actually baked the tablets making them more durable over time. However, there were other documents written on leather and even wax that were incinerated. It’s several of those documents I need to see.”
“Which presents a problem, Aiyana. The ruins of Nineveh sit squarely in the middle of the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq. How are we going to build a time gate there?”
“Actually Ross, we may have had a bit of luck. U.N. forces are holding northern Iraq, from the Syrian and Turkish borders down to Kirkuk.”
“I thought ISIS had control of that whole area, Colonel.”
“Not for the past two weeks or so, Lynn.”
“So how are we going to play this, Kelgarries? According to your own reports, very few people and agencies know Project Retrograde even exists.”
“The NSA, which we apparently work for now Travis, is arranging for a select team of technicians and agents to have access to the ruins in a highly covert operation. Only American troops will be have control of that area, and all they’ll be told is that there is a security operation taking place. They only have to hold the parameter. No one but our team will have access. We should be able to build the gate, have your team perform the time jump, retrieve Aiyana’s documents, and disassemble the gate, and get out in eighty hours tops.”
“What does your NSA receive from the op, Maj…uh, excuse me, Colonel?” Kelgarries didn’t believe for a second that Romanovich kept forgetting about the promotion the American Army officer had received because of the time change. He just liked to remind him that it occurred because history changed, not because this Kelgarries was the one to have merited it.
“Whatever information about the Forerunners we gather. The division we report to believes that some of the documents we are being sent back to retrieve date back to the alien bases found during the Bronze Age. They could be right, but who knows.”
“So what do we really hope to learn?”
“For one thing Murdock, the reason the time map is pointing to early 7th century BCE Nineveh.”
“More than that, Dr. Barnes. I think the library contains information about other effects of the time storm, possibly even leading to a solution to climate change and how to save humanity from extinction in the next fifty years.” Aiyana didn’t have details, but the key tablets seemed to reference a series of historical events that, while not understood at the time, may well have been caused by temporal incursions. The information possibly could have originated with Blue Forerunner observations, though she didn’t understand why that data wouldn’t also have been included in the time map they retrieved from Europa.
The gate technicians had been sent in the day before. and the Nineveh time gate would be ready by the time Ashe and his team arrived. They had flown into Mosul Airport in an Air Force C-130, having departed from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Now they were in the back of an armored transport traveling past Hay-Al Nassr toward the access gate to the ruins.
They stopped at yet another checkpoint, the last one before their destination, the driver offered ID and his written orders, and they were waved through. Their mission was so secret, that their written orders directed all military personnel to keep their hands off the team. They weren’t allowed to examine the vehicle and absolutely were forbidden to view the passengers and their equipment.
A temporary structure was erected around the now constructed time gate. The team was wearing the same black skin suits they wore during their mission to rescue Byrd’s people and investigate the Blue base in ancient Arizona. No need for disguises. Murdock called it a simple “snatch and grab.” In and out with zero residual presence.
This time, there were only three technicians, the minimal number necessary to build a portable gate in the field and get it operational.
He was there but this time identifiable. The “control voice” was Thomas Lucius, the man who sounded like Darth Vader and who looked like Idris Elba. “The gate is ready. We’ll activate it in sixty seconds, insert the generator, wait a few minutes, and then you go through. From there, you have exactly twenty-four hours to accomplish your mission. At twenty-four hours and one minute, we close off the gate and dismantle. Please do not miss your window.”
This was the first time Lynn Huỳnh had been this close to Lucius. “I think I believe in love at first sight.” She had been whispering but then realized she hadn’t meant to say that out loud.
To his credit, Lucius pretended not to hear but he was chuckling inside. He was sure his wife Janae would be less than pleased, but she was finally starting to realize that other women shared her attraction to him, not just because of his appearance and voice, but because of the amount of calm and trust he exuded.
“The gate’s set. Any time you’re ready Dr. Ashe, we’ll activate it and send the Somni-wave Generator through.”
“My team’s ready, Lucius. Go ahead.”
Two technicians Ross didn’t recognize put what looked like a small, portable electric generator inside the gate. They made a few adjustments and then set what appeared to be a timer.
“Naima and Immanuel Elberg. The two best field techs we’ve got, Murdock. You’re in good hands.”
Lucius mistook Ross’s curiosity for concern. He’d never seen the Somni-wave Generator before, though he’d been briefed on its operation back at base. The team would go back during the siege, about a day before Nineveh began to burn. Ideally, that would mean few to no people inside the library.
The Somni-wave was their insurance policy. If anyone were in the library or anyone should enter while the team was present, the emissions from the generator would induce a deep involuntary sleep. No animal life form could resist. The only thing keeping the time agents conscious during the mission were the wave inhibitors they’d be wearing in their ears and around the base of their skulls.
“All set here, Thomas,” Immanuel’s thick Israeli accent was a pleasant reminder to Ross that the Jewish homeland had survived the time change unaffected…this time. His marriage to Naima, who had been born in Jordan, was living hope that someday the middle eastern nations would find peace.
“I’ve set the timer for five minutes so we’ve got that long to activate the gate and send the generator through.” By contrast, Naima had almost no accent, the consequences of having been educated at Oxford. She had met and fallen in love with Immanuel while he was on holiday in London. They returned home and married just a month before the heart of that British city was destroyed in nuclear fire.
“Acknowledged.” Lucius started activating controls on his console. “Stations, please. I’m powering up the gate.”
Immanuel and Naima assumed their own consoles and the three technicians ran through the start up sequence.
Nearly five minutes later, the temporal field formed inside the gate. The field surrounded the waiting wave generator. It shimmered in eldritch light and vanished.
“Wave generator activation in three, two, one, go. Wait a few seconds for it to take effect, assuming there’s anyone on the other side to greet you.”
“Got it, Immanuel.” Ashe nodded to his team and they took their positions directly in front of the active gate.
“You’ll have twenty-four hours on my mark for you and your team to complete the mission and return, Dr. Ashe. Good luck to all of you.”
“Thank you, Lucius.” Ashe turned and gave a slight smile to the “control voice.”
“Two, one, mark. You are go for the jump.”
This time Ashe only nodded and then said to the team, “Let’s go.”
The six time travelers stepped through the temporal field generated by the time gate and then were gone. They had exactly one day to find the lost documents that could potentially save the world and return them to the present. If they failed, if somehow they couldn’t return, there might not be a second chance for anyone.
Once on the other side of the gate, Ross and Travis each took a handle on the generator and pulled it away from the now invisible temporal field.
“This’ll give the generator’s projection wave better coverage and mark the spot where we can find the gate again, Travis. Travis?”
Murdock looked up and saw what had captured his partner’s as well as the rest of the team’s attention.
“I’ve seen recreations of the library before but I never thought it would be this majestic.” Aiyana and Gordon had spent their lives chasing ghosts of the past. When they were both recruited for the Project, it was a dream come true for the historian and archeologist. Instead of digging up and examining little artifacts thousands of years old, they could physically go back and study the living past.
In the present, the gate had been placed in a vast expanse, a largely empty space. The walls of the library had been preserved, but anything of historical or material value had long since been removed.
In 612 BCE, the walls were exquisitely painted with ornate images of people, landscapes, and animals, both actual and mythical, representing the information compiled in this majestic structure. Carved and etched support columns added to the library’s impressive appearance, as did statues and other sculptures taken from half a dozen surrounding cultures.
The main chamber led into numerous others, each containing a different collection of clay tablets, leather scrolls, and wax sheets. A wide central staircase allowed them access to the upper and lower floors.
Tablets were stacked in what looked like cubby holes on different shelves, some mounted into the walls and others being free standing. Smaller chambers had ornate rugs hanging from the walls and covering the floors. That was when the party discovered the first bodies.
“They’ve just asleep, right Gordon?”
“That’s right, Lynn. And they’ll stay that way as long as we’re here. It’s one of the reasons we need to be out in 24 hours. If they’re exposed to the Somni waves much longer than that, they could fall into a coma and eventually die.”
“I wouldn’t think that would be much of a problem Gordon since they are likely to die within the next day or so anyway. The invaders and the fire and all.”
“That’s history, Vasnev. That’s not us deliberately causing someone’s death.”
“Time is awasting, people. We need to get to work.”
“That’s right, Travis. Everyone, assemble your gear.”
The six of them were each assigned an area of the library to investigate. Aiyana had briefed the rest of the team about what to look for. If anyone thought they’d found something, they’d call her immediately so she could verify that it was one of their goal documents.
They were wearing their throat mikes as always and each of them was assembling a cart with specialized containers that would protect any object they decided to take back to the present.
Aiyana and Gordon had studied Austen Layard’s original notes so they’d have a map of where to look as well as knowing what not to take back with them. They couldn’t afford to change history by removing a tablet or other object he was supposed to discover in 1849.
Lynn Huỳnh was able to narrow down the scope of their search even more.
“I’ve sent an updated map of the library to each of your tablets. The Forerunner scanner was able to identify the materials present in different areas. You know we’re looking for documents made of leather and wax. Plus the information from the key clay tablet Aiyana briefs us on should help cut down a lot of our time here.”
“Great work. Thanks, Lynn. Okay, everyone, go to your assigned areas. Stay in touch. We’ve got less than a day to pull off a miracle.”
Having been given their orders by the team leader, the six split up and started the detailed task of looking for the specific items that hopefully woulf help them save the world of the future.
Historically and culturally, it was an amazing experience just being in Ashurbanipal’s Library, but for Ross, it lacked the thrill of playing the role of an ancient trader. It did however, remind him of the days when he was a thief for hire making millions by stealing rare and precious items. Here he was, stealing ancient artifacts that in a day would have been lost to history forever. This was the job he was born for.
To most people, such a laborious search would be boring, even in such an exotic setting, but as an archeologist and historian, Gordon and Aiyana found this sort of task stimulating. Lynn, as a technician, was also used to performing slow and detailed work. Travis and Vasnev wished they could go faster but they were both disciplined enough to set their feelings aside for the good of the mission.
Aiyana had the most running around to do. Every time one of the team thought they’d made an important discovery, they called her and she had to rush to their position. More often than not, they were false alarms, but rather that than either gathering what would be worthless to them, or worse, leaving behind a vital piece of information.
Each of their carts were slowly filling up as the hours passed. They’d taken stimulants so they could remain alert and functional for the full 24 hours but they also had to fight being distracted or having their attention drift.
Ross was near the main entrance to the chamber on the next to the top floor and could hear the commotion outside. He also felt like the air was getting hotter. “The fire.”
He looked at this watch. They only had an hour left. He couldn’t believe how long this was taking. Fortunately they’d covered most of the ground they’d planned to but would they have to leave something vital unexamined?
The outer doors burst open and three men with spears ran in yelling in a language Murdock couldn’t understand. The three were Ninevans, probably soldiers or guards. One turned to his left and saw the time traveler. For a moment, he was shocked at the appearance of the stranger. Then he ran at the intruder, his spear pointed right at Murdock’s chest.
The ancient soldier almost missed Ross on his first charge, but the spear tip tore Murdock’s suit and cut part of his right shoulder. The agent rolled and came up facing his attacker while wishing for a weapon. The team decided not to bring any since they thought the Somni wave would take care of anyone present in the library except them.
Then Ross noticed that the soldier facing him was staggering. He chanced a look to his left and saw the other two looked exhausted or drugged. One by one, they collapsed to the floor, still trying to fight the effect. They were at the extreme edge of the Somni wave field so it was consuming precious seconds to take its toll on the three armed men.
Murdock quickly got his First Aid kit out of his pack and wrapped a crude binding around his wound. It was superficial, but they were supposed to leave zero residual presence which included his blood.
He heard static in his earpiece and then Gordon’s voice. “All team members. We’ve got thirty minutes until we have to go back through the portal. Report to the time gate at once, over.” Ross keyed his mike. “This is Murdock. Roger the recall message, Gordon. On my way. Out.”
Murdock could hear, one after the other, his fellow agents acknowledging Ashe’s recall as he walked over to the shelf he had been examining before the soldiers ran in. There was no time to call Aiyana to see if what he found was important or not, but he carefully took the wax sheet and placed it in one of the empty isolation containers on his cart. Somehow the characters on it looked dangerously familiar.
Then he took the cart’s handle and pulled it back toward the main stairway at the center of the building. He’d have to lift and carry it when he went back down which would take time, but he should still make it within the half-an-hour he had left.
“Ross, what happened?” Gordon noticed the blood-stained gauze wrapping on his partner’s right arm.
“Slight run in with some soldiers who got inside and engaged me before the Somni wave got them.”
“Travis and Lynn are already on the other side of the gate. Push your cart through. They’ll grab it. You do the same, Aiyana. Then get through. Vasnev will help me with the generator.”
“You go through with the two carts. Aiyana. I’ll stay here to help Gordon and Vasnev.”
“Still don’t trust me alone with Gordon, Ross?”
Shut up, Romanovich. I’m turning off the generator. Then the three of us can grab it and haul it through before it’s too late.”
“We’ve got less than two minutes so both of you stop arguing.”
“Got it, Gordon. The generator’s off. Let’s go.”
Ross and Vasnev each took one side of the generator. “Go through, Gordon. We’ll follow.”
Against his better judgment, Ashe turned and disappeared through the invisible temporal field.
“Let’s have it.”
“I could say ‘what,’ but you are too observant to play games with.” Vasnev Romanovich removed a plastic bag containing a small piece of leather with an inscription on it from under his shirt. “I thought you hadn’t seen me slip this into my clothing.”
Vasnev handed Ross the object. Murdock took it in his left hand while holding one handle of the generator in his right. The throbbing of his shoulder reminded him of his wound and that he’d mistakenly left his blood on the spear tip that injured him.
Both Murdock’s and Romanovich’s ear pieces crackled. “Less than sixty seconds until shutdown. What’s taking you so long?”
“We’re coming through now, Gordon.”
Ross and Vasnev lifted the generator and carried it through the gate, re-entering the 21st century where the rest of the team was waiting. Aiyana, Travis, and Lynn were already packing their acquisitions away for transport out of the ruins.
“If you two need to have long conversations, do it after the mission is over.”
“Of course, Gordon.” Vasnev set his end of the generator down. “The Somni-wave machine was a bit heavier than we realized. That’s all.”
As Ross set his end down and took off his pack, he slipped the item he took from Vasnev into it.
No one seemed to notice, but he knew Vasnev must be at least curious as to why the American hadn’t reported the Russian to Ashe the second they returned to the present.
“Naima. Power down the field. Immanuel, as soon as the power’s neutralized, let’s start disassembling the gate.”
“Right, Thomas.” The Israeli gave the senior technician a cheerful thumbs up.
The technical team arrived a full day ahead of the time travelers and they’d be leaving nearly six hours after them. It would take that long to disassemble the gate and associated equipment and then carefully pack it away for travel.
Meanwhile, Aiyana was supervising the Nineveh artifacts being loaded into the back of their transport vehicle. Had they changed history just by taking these items? Probably not, but they wouldn’t know for sure until they rejoined the outside world, the world not protected from time changes by a temporal field.
“So Aiyana, what do you have for us?”
Colonel Kelgarries had put a lot of pressure on Aiyana Zheutlin to review the documents brought back from ancient Nineveh and arrive at some sort of conclusions, ideally something that might give them the answer to global warming or at least to the point in history changed by the time storm that started the phenomena.
Fortunately, she had two things in her favor. The first was that Gordon had called in three other experts in ancient near eastern languages to assist. The second was Dr. Antoine Barnes. It wasn’t that Barnes was a linguistic expert, but what she was attempting to interpret was tied into the current configuration of the Forerunner time map.
“Not as much as I’d hoped, John. Just to get it out of the way, I didn’t find a smoking gun pointing to climate change.”
“You mean after all of that…”
“Wait, John. I didn’t say the jump back wasn’t fruitful. I did find a second key document, one that pointed to other documents that either contained certain Forerunner symbols or that mentioned those symbols but were written in more conventional languages.”
“Did you find any other effects of the time storm.”
“Believe it or not, I think I found the oldest one yet. In fact it’s so old I can’t even begin to date it precisely.” Aiyana turned to Gordon. “According to the Biblical account of Noah’s Ark, how long was the Earth flooded?”
“Six days and nights. Everyone knows that.”
“Not anymore. I always knew the library contained a non-Biblical account of a world-wide flood, but one of the documents we brought back said that it was forty days.”
“I assume you checked a copy of the Bible, Aiyana.”
“That’s the interesting part, Gordon.” The Bibles here at base where the time gate has been active accurately state the flood was only six days and nights long, but various copies brought in from outside indicate forty.”
“So what changed that Aiyana, I mean besides God Himself?”
“I don’t know exactly, John. However, it does seem to indicate that the time storm is capable of creating or intensifying natural or perhaps even supernatural disasters.”
“Excuse me, dear Aiyana. As a good Soviet atheist, do you seriously expect me to believe that the entire globe was underwater for any length of time at all, whether six or forty days.”
“There is some evidence to suggest there was, not a global flood, but one that covered much of the near east. Robert Ballard, an underwater archaeologist said in a 2012 interview, that he believes around 5,000 BCE, rapid glacial melting flooded 150,000 square kilometers of land in the area of what is now modern Turkey.
“Any number of near eastern cultures have flood legends, so it’s entirely possible they are based on some actual event. I’ve read accounts that offer similar proof stating that about 7,500 years ago, a barrier broke between the Mediterranean and what is now the Black Sea, flooding the entire geographic region.”
“Right, Gordon. I did some more digging into those accounts, and in each case, the length of the flood increased from about a week to several months or more.”
“Then you’re saying that the event upon which the flood stories are based changed and became worse because of the time storm.”
“Is this the next focal point in time for Gordon’s team?”
“I should say not, Colonel.” This was the first time Barnes spoke in the meeting, although based on his understanding of the time map, his might be the final voice determining the point in the past where the time agents would visit next. “Some of the data Dr. Zheutlin brought back has modified my understanding of how to read the time map. Have you ever heard of the Minoan eruption on the island of Thera?”
“Isn’t that modern Santorini, Aiyana?”
“Yes, Vasnev. It’s a small island in the Mediterranean just under 300 kilometers from Greece, or at least it was.”
“Don’t tell me it no longer exists, Aiyana.”
“That’s right, Ross, it no longer exists. In fact, it never has in the current timeline. But Dr. Barnes and I did discover something else.”
“Do enlighten us, Aiyana.”
“Prepare to be enlightened, Vasnev. Santorini, or Thera as it was called in ancient times, suffered from a violent volcanic eruption around 1920 BCE. In fact it was one of the most catastrophic eruptions in recorded history. It’s believed to have caused significant climatic effects, the primary one resulted in crop failures throughout the Northern Hemisphere, at least in our timeline.”
“But not related to modern climate change in this timeline.”
“No John, but let me finish. The Minoan eruption was thought to be the inspiration for Plato’s work “Timaeus and Critias” as well as the basis for the legend of Atlantis“.
“Wait. Atlantis. As in big Island in the middle of the ocean sinks without a trace Atlantis?”
“Yes, Lynn. That Atlantis.”
“But, as Dr. Zheutlin said, ancient Thera never existed in the current timeline, but something else, something larger and previously unknown can now be seen in the time map.” Barnes used the fingers of both hands to make a steeple, which in his case indicated self-satisfaction.
“The legendary Atlantis was real in the current timeline. That’s what you both are saying.” Kelgarries could barely contain his incredulousness.
“I believe that Dr. Ashe and his team should jump back to that location and era. It is the next indicated focal point on the time map.”
“What do you expect Ashe’s team to find, Barnes?”
“Perhaps the next piece in the puzzle we are all working to construct.”
“John, the documents we brought back…two of them mention Atlantis, not by name, but they give a set of coordinates…in both space and time.”
“I don’t know. It’s possible.”
What Aiyana didn’t reveal, and what she kept in confidence with Ross, was that Vasnev Romanovich originally held one of the documents and the other clue was on the last wax sheet Murdock had retrieved after he was attacked in the ancient library.
“So Ross, why did you not inform the Colonel of my apparent misbehavior in the library in Nineveh. From your point of view, I’m guilty of concealing an ancient artifact, one that points to our next mission, from the team and Project Retrograde.”
Murdock and Romanovich were having a late cup of coffee in the cafeteria. The staff had long since gone off duty, so they had to endure what the vending machine put out.
“I want to know why you tried to take it in the first place. Aiyana tells me you didn’t consult with her. She didn’t even know you’d found it. How did you know it was worth anything at all?”
“You forget Ross, I too have had mental contact with a Forerunner. There were symbols on the leather fragment that I could read.”
“Yes, she told me about the symbols. I didn’t know you’d gotten so much from the Blue back at the Soviet base in Ice Age Sweden.”
“I didn’t see the last wax sample you brought back, but I know you could read the fragment you took from me.”
“You gave it to me on purpose. In fact, you let me see you hiding it under your shirt on purpose. Why?”
“I see I am far too transparent for a man of your skills. Yes, I allowed you to ‘catch’ me and with good reason.”
“The danger implied on both of our fragments.”
“I could only guess about what you found, but I could see the expression on your face when you read what I had discovered. You put them together to form an answer as to why you did not report me.”
“There’s nothing that specific.”
“Not just the documentation, but what we got from the Blue Forerunner’s mind. Something secret. Something forbidden.”
“I know. I remember. That’s why we have to go to Atlantis. To find it. To stop it.”
“You told Aiyana.”
“Of course, Vasnev. I had to. She doesn’t know what we know from the Blue, but she’ll figure it out.”
“Barnes will as well, Ross. Then our little secret will be out.”
“We’re not that sure of our facts, Vasnev.”
“Sure enough to believe that what awaits us at Atlantis might be a power source capable of destroying all life on Earth, Ross. We can’t let that knowledge fall into the hands of your military or mine. We have to stop it in the past or there will be no future for any of us. It will make the nuclear destruction of London look like one of your Fourth of July firecrackers.”
“I know. We’ll only get one chance at this, Vasnev. If we fall, the human race, the entire planet falls with us.”
“Then let us pray we do not fail, Ross.”
“Pray, Vasnev? I thought…”
“My Mother was Russian Orthodox. I was taught to pray while still a small child sitting on her lap. I only play the atheist for the sake of the Communist party. Yes, I pray, Ross. Right now, we need all the help we can get.”
Previous “chapters” in this book are:
This is part of my homage to the works of Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton) which include The Time Traders, Galactic Derelict, and now The Defiant Agents. At this point, there’s no resemblance in my tales to Norton’s original story lines beyond the existence of some of the characters. Hopefully, she’d like how I’ve interpreted her vision.
The next chapter is called Nereid.