The Passing of Time
Copyright William Morris and Cyberhorn
It has been said time and time again, that all things come and go in time. That in the end it’s all immaterial and pointless as time is the great eliminator the true judge of a person, a race or its achievements.
Just as over time a mountain can be worn to nothingness it gives via time to build anew somewhere else, a new mountain rises which apart of it was once a mountain many times before.
Time can heal as well as destroy though if it is given its way it will work many things out.
Archeologists study the past hoping to learn about those who time has removed from the grand plan of things. People places things all are subject to time but as said before time can also heal. Even now we study and learn to find ways to bring back that which time has taken away we heal then time can take over
If the time is right that is.
Looking at his list of ‘jobs’ he sighed this was not his favorite clearing the work areas of debris the full researchers and scientists tended to not give a care and dumped the worst things all over the work area under the shade awnings.
Turning to the west he shaded his eyes with a palm thinking to himself a dust storm would be welcome right about now
But those came in the transition months between winter an summer on the dead world of Drava they had landed their 7 ships near one of the huge bombardment craters which was miles across it was where as legends and archeological evidence from dozens of other nearby worlds stated cities of immense proportions had once existed but had been destroyed by unknown parties.
Being an apprentice he got the dirty jobs never really learning anything just cleaning staff, but he had through school been exceptional, well almost, his math and interpersonal skills were not exactly the greatest but he did try. He had drive to be a perfectionist incredibly careful of time worn artifacts and yet the eyes to see the obvious which some of the best couldn't when it literally hit them in the nose. He had saved one of the very researchers here from such a fate earning him a warm spot in head archeologist Higgins’s heart.
This trip was a big bonus for him he had all his life heard tails about the legendary Drava but so little had been found beyond the fact that once they had been incredible warriors, defenders of other weaker worlds which had in time come to see them as gods. Temples and edifices to the Drava had been built but then suddenly the Drava disappeared and their friends suffered several were ultimately destroyed by unknown forces others fell into a stone age finally dieing off.
The Drava were a keystone, they in their strength had fostered and helped forty four other worlds and races to flourish in the end now only 3 still existed in any form to be called a race.
They had come from the Tilligan home world a race of stone age feline like hunters surrounded by huge buildings collapsing from their age the jungles had long ago retaken the empty areas there and were well on their way to destroying it all back into the dust
It was there they finally had found a galactic keystone, a map reference of sorts used by the Drava; it gave them the full coordinates for the Drava home world.
And thus now bill stood on Drava, near the legendary city of Hursall the great or what remained of it, cleaning up the empty coffee cups of those who many saw this as a dead end, saying the Drava had been obliterated by some great enemy who finally beat the Drava back to their home world and then eliminated them from the galactic playing field.
The expedition had brought enough supplies to survive in the field for 5 years if needed and with one ship a virtually complete machine shop they could fix any of their equipment another a fully equipped hospital frigate, in orbit was the main sections of the ships they were linked to form a rough station from which the Landers had come down to set up base camp the huge star drive engines idle save for minor orbit adjustments
Bill looked from his wiping of spilled and drying cleaning solution out over the distant tumbled ruins to the south remains of Drava suburbs outside the main city thinking to himself they were concentrating on a supposed blast crater the real finds are there, out in the collapsed ruins damn no one listens to me so I get into trouble and have to be a maid. Sighing to him self only another couple hours and he’d be free of the crappy work detail
He had every right to go off and find whatever he wanted so long as he was there to help and assist as needed, which right now all they were finding was powdered and shattered remains of bedrock.
His big bone of contention and even his fellow assistants failed to see it much less the very captain in command! It wasn’t a damn blast crater it was too perfectly sloped even after eons of erosion.
It was an eons old excavation, albeit one of immense undertaking and proportions but still it was a dig and they were not the first to try and find the Drava.
It was that fact and his big mouth that got him into an argument with one of the field researchers, the captain had backed up age and experience before youth and common sense; they had refused to look at his collected information and dismissed him to work detail for a week.
Grumbling to himself about the perfectly flat area they were sitting on, compacted and sifted fine grain materials as if from a huge mechanized sifting process it covered areas miles around the crater thus it gave them a perfect place to land and set up camp years later, fools all of them he growled.
Taking a final hard scrub at a sticky spot by a
scanner imager he snarled “fine I’ll let um spin their wheels in the dusts of
others tailings I’ll find the Drava screw um all”
after a couple hours he dumped the trash and other junk into the recycler system and dusted off his hands he set out to find the captain.
The captain was looking over the areas deep sounding scans she knew the young apprentice was coming from his tread on the ground, he was a big one she thought and damn opinionated but she thought again he was starting to look right about the crater, they were finding nothing in it but bedrock and sand all the building remains and made materials were up on the rim processed into granular sized bits. She glanced up at him as he approached his glasses and brown curls hidden under a cap shading his face from the bright white sun light
She noted a new report come in on the system, part of a water system that once fed into the city; the scans showed the edge of the conduit was cleanly ground off
“Captain” the young man stopped and saluted waiting for a response
She sighed “alright bill your free to run”
“Yes! Thank you captain” turning to run for his things
He stopped and looked back “just between you and me it’s looking like you were correct even the water mains feeding into what was the city were ground clean off, But! I want this clear you are a part of this team and a junior member without full license; you find anything I want to know immediately”
“Yes sir captain”
“Oh and log your direction incase you get stuck or hurt we can save your butt”
He smiled and waved
She sighed knowing the old timers were being far to stiff with the apprentices they were the youth who would gain the most from this information and bill would be in the front on this trip. She had to get the older team members to relax a bit and let the youth run they needed to find things fast.
Behind her in the shadows of a ships landing gear several pairs of eyes watched one set broke off to follow the apprentice
He gathered his gear one item he had spent most all of his savings on was the armband scanner, it could record a dairy of his progress, scan and video log items, map areas with a holographic display it even acted as a communicator it was one of the newest tools available to felid archeologists he snapped a memory card in and checked its status while packing his food supplies, sample kits, lights and guidance beacons.
He smiled as the scanner greeted him by name and stated it was fully functioning “good-good system, voice lock please”
“Ready for code”
He then grabbed a few sticks of good old fashioned chalk stuffing them into a chest pocket, his studies of areas out side the crater rim showed several possible underground complexes that alone made him wary of getting lost thus the chalk for marking his way
He snagged his solar charged scooter, which folded up into a compact shoulder pack able size and ran for the ground outside his vest and back pack ready he hit the ground running flipping the scooter out he was on it with a hop and whizzed away to the south at top speed
After several hours of travel he slowed and unlocked his scanner accessing his data on the scans. He was within several large underground areas a complex of them arrayed underground in regular patterns he stopped moving seeing a thin area was to his immediate left
Walking over to a pile of debris he shoved several cube shaped chunks aside seeing a recessed cover a huge grin came, a quick scan later and he started working to clear it
After 3 hours he stood back from a huge cover of an aluminum alloy that was known to come from Drava the alloying component was unknown but it gave the material the strength of titanium this 3 by 3 meter square cover was worth hundreds of thousands of credits
“Now how the hell to move a nearly ten foot square access cover with no visible handholds” he felt around the edges and found nothing twitching his nose side to side as he taped his chin he didn’t want to do it but it was time for a persuasion device
Reaching into his back pack he pulled out an extendable crowbar and wedged it into the crack his scan done when he first found the cover showed the air was circulating thus wasn’t sealed so this brute force wouldn’t be harmful to the insides
He got a bite and leaned hard on the bar finally hearing a creak he put all his weight on it and the bar gave flopping him face first into the dust on top of the bar
“Son of a’ bitch!” grabbing the bent bar he whacked the cover hard in anger with a loud bang and it popped up slowly rising into the air on its support cylinders
Slowly he drummed his fingers on the bar growling to himself. A quick examination of the latching system showed his impact had popped a brittle locking rod which had held the cover down the lock was actuated via electronics he scanned the assembly for the record he had his first discovery!
He spoke as he scanned it in place “looks from the historical examples we’ve found of Drava electronics this was activated via an optical code signal from a key” figuring the key was forever lost in some maintenance workers coveralls buried under tons of rubble long before man ever thought of traveling into space breaking the pin was a forgivable crime
In fact he paused his removing of the assembly to put time in its perspective when the last of the Drava disappeared man had just entered the year 525bc so man had civilized to a point but now it was the earth year 2634, three years ago contact with a runaway freighter of a alien race had exposed humans to the space fairing community to the horror of many of those worlds man was a quick learner, the ship had crashed into the pacific ocean and sank just off the coast of San Francisco harbor and the golden gate bridge
The alien owners came to reclaim the ship a year later, it was now public knowledge and all of the earth was ready thus when they asked for it back several agencies said hey its salvage now you want it we want this in exchange, they paid it
“Ahh humans the redheaded stepchildren of the galaxy, no one wants us yet they can’t say we don’t belong now” he found the retaining clips and slid the lock out of the housing
His comm. beeped he paused slipping the lock into a sealing bag for transport “comm. activate”
“Bill this is lead researcher Jonas, where in the hell are you? You were not given leave to run off destroying valuable artifacts in your “
He tapped a button to shut him off, sighing to himself he finished sealing the bag and then called the captain who was just groaning hearing the researcher fuming at being snubbed by some damn apprentice
“Captain id like to report that I have found a Drava locking mechanism for a hatch cover which I had to break the pin but the hatch is open to exploration below ground”
“A single day is all I asked bill” eyes covered as she listened to the ranting across the way
“Its not my fault he got some attitude with me I disconnected before I said something about his manners, I have taken all the field procedures required I am not out an about smashing relics” taking a deep breath “ sir”
She looked at his image in the comm. panel “did he really say that?”
Bill taped a button then another on his arm and the screen split and replayed Jonas rant “as I said captain I'm just out here doing my job I'm finding the Drava” holding up the sealed bag for her to see
“Very well bill keep at it send me your position so I can log it for mapping, I'm going to have a word with these old men” she turned away as the image faded
He smiled “finally!! Someone believes I can do the job for once” packing the lock away he sent a signal up to the orbiting station and went down the wide stairs into the darkness scooter slung over his shoulder
The follower made note of the place and found a shadier place to hide and wait the leader would be pleased
Bill reached into his pack and got out a light stick thwacking it over his knee with a quick flick and shake it glowed a bright white holding it out the area lit up showing layers of dust and the shaft of sunlight from the whiter hot Dravan star showing the dust motes floating about the passage
Bringing up his scan he was just off to the right of one of the bigger open areas. He spent a few minutes finding the panel and pulling it open proved easy he was mid way up the wall of a lower passage tossing the light stick down it bounced off what looked like a decoratively tiled floor the light perhaps the first in the hall for thousands of years showed even here the destroyers had found these passages and left their calling cards of destruction and stripping.
“System personal log “
”Entered the larger hallway from the access hatch via the maintenance corridor looks to be stripped and vandalized like the other Drava sites we’ve seen on other worlds I do hope I find more than just a lock who were these people who would come to Drava and do this? Bastards”
He tied off a short rope ladder thinking that they had taken air and water samples and found nothing harmful but what had killed the Drava? Sighing as he looked down the passage to his right it was partially collapsed and he saw a ramp leading up filled with debris the other way led him out into one of the open central areas of the network
He stopped, realization finally hitting him seeing the smashed benches and doorways with larger openings grid work pulled down and decaying doors ripped off ornate hinges the intricate tile work the general layout
“A mall, it’s a Drava shopping mall oh for crying out loud” laughter echoing off into the depths of the shadows
He soon went on looking into the individual stores chuckling to himself
Finding shelves and empty spaces he took meticulous scans and images as he went
He stopped and froze as he saw a scrap of fabric! Hanging on a display careful scans showed it was nearly totally lost to decay his scans showed weave patterns and colors faded by time
A quick snag with his sample bag he got it but the age of it was his undoing the fabric turned to powder in his bag. With a heavy sigh he tossed it in his pack and unfolded his scooter “time to report in”
He followed his foot steps in the dust and returned to the access hatch a few minutes later climbing out and sitting on the covers edge he shifted over into the shade of the cover the days here were twice as long as earths
“Ship base captain?”
It beeped as she appeared in his hologram “good timing bill I was about to give you a call”
“Researchers getting all mad I'm off finding things?”
She clearly sighed “not exactly, but were having troubles past hour several big pieces of equipment have broke down. So what have you found so far?”
“Found a Dravan shopping mall”
Her eyes lit up with interest “and?”
“A small sample of fabric that unfortunately turned to powder as I collected it. But I did a full detail scan of it before getting close thus I did get that”
She for moment had a crestfallen look then smiled “good job bill! Can you send us the data? I’ll start getting the ships ready to move over there”
“Captain can you wait just a bit? Let me check on this a bit more? Give me the rest of the day?”
She thought about it then smiled “well the techs need to get that heavy equipment up and running before we can, okay bill you have your extra time”
“Well in that I've got good news they can use it to clear out a ramp right into the mall passageways its filled with debris which I'm sending the data I've gotten so far, the debris is a lot younger than the surrounding materials “
“So its not from the city above?”
“Yes it is but when it was crushed and processed it went through some kind of melting and reforming which reset its age clock thus it all dates to when the place was destroyed not when the material was originally made. The mall tiles show an age of earth time of around 250 BC “
“That’s quite a bit older than the last reported sighting of a Drava”
“Indeed it is captain I think there’s more here than what were seeing. Someone wanted all traces of the Drava erased from history for whatever reason”
She took a deep breath then sipped some water “bill what I'm about to tell you is between us alright, it will explain this expedition and the four others that are out on extended posting to other legendary worlds, the human race is in terrible danger from several races one of which is the Hydroxian they claim we have no right to be off our own planet much less running about in their space which earth just happens to be in”
“They’re an insectiod race aren’t they if I remember my classes correctly”
“They are, well earth needs technology and fast they are pressing the galactic counsel to lift the protections on earth due to the fact were no longer ‘primitive’ they want our recourses and even us, if were classified as advanced were fair game for anyone who wants to harvest us the counsel would see it as were just not willing to protect our people thus we need advanced technology to be able to compete with them and defend earths interests”
“Captain the Drava were legendary warriors but I don’t know how much of that is hearsay or fact, and with no way to tell how much of there technology survives this may be a dead end for that issue”
She nodded “ I know bill but they are enough of a fact that earth wants us to find out if it is a dead end or not. That hatch cover alone is worth a fortune to metal alloy studies the trip wont be worthless but the more we find the better”
He nodded “then let me go captain I have a hunch that they would have their malls set up like ours are. A logical toss of the dice “
“Set up a relay I want better comm. Connection and be careful we have several of the older researchers drop from the heat and what looks like the flu including your mentor Higgins’”
“The scans of the planet and didn’t find any dangerous viruses or bacteria” a tone of worry creped into his voice
“Well they’re sick with flu like symptoms so you be careful and don’t over do, the over long days aren’t an excuse to go burning out”
He nodded and clicked it off he pulled the relay out and set it up on the edge the tiny box beeped and he went back down setting another at the access hatch he sighed and walked over to the nearest store and scanned the back walls watching closely as his hologram showed wall thickness and workings along the insides he grinned seeing another locking mechanism on a door to the back areas
He found a shelf that would hold his weight and stood on it like a step stool examining the wall over the lock and found the cover a gentle pry with his pocket knife and it fell into his hand and a gentle push with the blade and the lock slid aside the door easing open to another passageway
The doors and general scale of things showed the Drava to be a very tail race and built massively thus even what would have been a service corridor was huge
His scanner started updating the maps he had, showing the passages that went behind the stores he had already gone along in the outer halls
The dust here was far older than the dust out in the mall and it was not filled with the trace residues from the weapons used to destroy the outer mall areas
“Personal log, as I had hoped the Drava were logical in there ways of business, perhaps supplies were kept in storerooms behind the business fronts and workers could go about stocking after hours I know its reaching but they seem to be logical thus you don’t show customers your back areas you keep them in the pretty front areas and the back workings of things stay out of sight. The corridor shows little in the way of being disturbed, a light fixture fallen here a chunk of wall here but remarkably intact unlike the outer mall which looks like a hurricane rolled through”
The floors showed signs of painted words which he scanned and let the armband work on translation as he moved forward along the hall which then it ended in a ‘T’ the arm band chimed it had competed the translation the words said service corridor.
He sighed and continued on to the left thinking about how seriously literal he’d become in this pursuit of knowledge ‘ of course they would say it was service corridor ‘ stopping at the first of many doors now becoming visible he found in the next few hours storage for the cloth store and the wondrous materials there fabrics which as he tested and examined found them to be intact enough to risk a feel of the material which was a priceless moment though smooth to the eye it held soft ripples in it to the touch
It was the discovery of a storage area for a food store of some kind, the containers semi translucent showing they were full to near full of liquids and food items the translations meant nothing to him as beer wouldn’t to an alien but scans showed they weren’t poisonous or tainted a few were but on the whole they had remained intact he opened a valve on one liquid container letting a tiny amount drip into his palm which immediately started to tingle the fragrance was sweet as the tingle faded he took a small taste and had to smile
“Personal log, the greenish-gray liquid seems to be a sweet syrup the translation says ullar which roughly comes out to plant sap so I think I found a version of Drava maple syrup it has a faintly flowery smell to it, thing was I had a tingling reaction when it touched the skin of my palm but there nothing in its makeup showing an acid or spice” getting more there was no reaction and none when he tried the other hand he made a note of it and tried some dried meat with a spicy flavoring on it blinking back a few whimpers he exhaled and sighed “now that was definitely a winner in the hot meats competition in the Houston rodeo whew!”
Chuckling to himself he knew it was far from professional to be sampling the artifacts but he had read so much about the Drava and their culture he needed to experience some of it for himself in the end the tiny amount he’d sampled would never be known his personal notes were for him alone, moving along he found a platform which was clearly an underground rail transport system the bottom was spotted with water puddles but looked intact far as the eye could see in the darkness
His comm. came on giving him a start the sound of his gasp echoed off into the distance, he turned and walked back into the hallway into the storage areas “ William here”
“Bill it’s the captain times up”
“ Huh? But you said I could have a day “
“I said you had the rest of the day not a full one, sorry bill but we have to move in. I have the ships landing now on an open area near the hatch cover you indicated find anything else?”
“Yes, store rooms with inventory that’s remarkably well preserved and a rail transport tunnel system that the storerooms have access to via a loading dock”
Her face lit up with unhidden glee “I’ll have the station deep scan the area so we can map the tunnels, bill your incredible come up and take a rest you’ve earned it, great job”
He sighed and went back to the food storage warehouse snagging a few more samples of other foods and some of the syrup then he headed out to the sounds of the rocks falling and a loader plowing through into the mall via the Drava ramp which was quickly cleared and the senior archeologists and scientists along with some of the military came in setting up lights and ruining the peaceful quiet
Several looked at him with distaste but the military advisors patted his shoulders he went out and gathered his scooter walking up to the captain who smiled “you impressed several of the military bill they have more faith in you now than the older experts”
He sighed, ”Great that means that my life is gona be a living hell experts don’t much like being shown up”
“No not at all they all got their ears chewed on by a message from earth central they are wasting time by holding anyone back from exploring and finding they are to immediately open the planet to all the junior explorers, I believe that means you. So as a result if you have any particular areas you want to look at then you have leave to go and run with it”
Bill had a slowly breaking smile grow across his face
“But! I want you as a team no more going off alone if your half way across the planet and run into trouble I want someone there to pull your butt out of the fire”
He stopped for a moment and for the first time saw something of the fact that she was quite young only a few years older than he was and she was quite gorgeous “umm well alright cap if you insist but I want to name my team, deal?”
She smiled “deal, now hit the showers mister good game”
Saluting and with a grin he bowed politely “thank you cap, I’ll have the names to you in the morning”
She nodded and went back to her displays he paused for a moment to look at her and sighed knowing even if she was being friendly she wasn’t being THAT kind of friendly.
Instead of relaxing he did a few requests of the main scanner systems on the station they had already mapped out quite a huge network of tunnels and underground systems some of which had been totally destroyed most of the destruction was around the major city locations
The drava had a logical system set up, the cities had agricultural areas around them set up with distinct support areas much of the useable land had been given over to farming and parks he was looking in the wrong areas and knew it
“The drava were space fairing warriors they had to have enemies and knew it. No orbiting satellites remained of any space based defense system but being logical they should have had some ground based system but the scans showed no defined areas dedicated to military operations and none of the legends said they were a military socitity thus the cities were not oriented around it”
Sighing he looked at the geological scans out of pure curiosity, once when he was starting school before he had heard the first story about the Drava he wanted to be a vulcanoligist but the Drava changed everything there was a chance to be an expert in a race that no one else had, to be a success.
The scan system showed an anomaly in the surface of Drava and showed it on the screen a mountain nearly the size of Olympus Mons on mars. It was immense, and totally wrong.
No volcanic sources, no geologic reasons for such a peak. The continental mass it was on was even wrong it was very deep and their scans were having difficulty penetrating the surface layers showing a lot of Drava alloys in the surface
“Hmm cant use the main scanners till the main survey is done but that will take a couple days”
“You know you sit there so intent on your stuff you could be killed and not know it”
He spun and found his three roommates the one who spoke was Amy a junior geologist, frank and tom both chuckled as they took up spots in their bunks Amy was standing there with her arms folded over her chest clearly enjoying having him on a pin
“Umm hey you. Smiling innocently “sorry bout all the upheaval”
“Don’t be bill you got earth central to notice what the seniors were doing keeping us in camp as virtual slave labor, with your discoveries we can now go to real work so what you doing looking at geological without yours truly? “ Amy slipped in beside him looking at the scan data
He slipped out of the chair and went over to his bunk and she took the chair now also gone silent frank spoke up as he rolled over to look
“Hey Amy so what’s bill looking at that’s got your tongue tied?”
“It’s a scan of perhaps one of the biggest mountains I have ever seen and it’s a fake “
They both said it at once “what?”
“The scan Amy?” tom spoke out as he sat up thwacking his head on the roof “ow! Damn!”
“No tom and watch the roof we need the hull intact, it’s the mountain” she and the others then slowly looked at bill who had a totally innocent and blank look to his face
“Hmm?” he smiled blankly
“Okay bill what is boiling around in that genius mind of yours huh” Amy thumbed at the holo “this is fake the scans show it the drava alloys confirm it, how’d you find it? What is it?”
His eyes gleamed and the grin came back
Frank leaned back “oh ohh he’s got that look again”
“You just had to set him off didn’t you Amy you should know better by now!” Tom took cover under his pillow
Bill accepted all of it in good humor “it is indeed a fake mountain with nearly the size of Olympus mons and it is fake if you look at the facts that geologically it doesn’t belong and the drava were excellent fearless warriors they were in all ways a very peaceful happy race who enjoyed helping allies and other cultures thus logically they were not a warlike race”
Standing up, tom took deeper cover under his pillow “oh no he’s up and walking now”
Bill gave him a derogatory finger as he turned and opened his secure box under the bed
Setting out all the items he had in there “the drava you see were explorers but also great warriors they believed in living with people to learn everything they could about them then moved on they had no need for a military existence thus their cities were culture centers art and fun, life and its enjoyment, but they did have a military but clearly didn’t want it out in the open thus that” pointing to the hologram
“I found it accidentally while thinking about them and how they organized their world” he opened the book he had with the items it was clearly very old and creaked loudly “this is a journal of a Lertain shaman who the drava rescued from an ice flow they let him go along with them as they explored his world it has the only known surviving images of drava in it and they aren’t very good”
Laying it on the desk they all came around it he turned the page to a marked one where an ugly drawing of a shadowy figure with evil eyes was towering over the image of a small creature he pointed out the language to them then walked them through the shamans journeys with the drava when finally the journal spoke of the death of one of the drava
“He was stunned that the other Drava were so, lacking? In emotion over the loss of a comrade who died saving villagers from a volcanic mudslide, They soon left him there alone telling him to go and help lead the now homeless villagers, that he had learned all he could from them and they from his world” pointing to the texts symbols along the page
“They were gone in the morning and he spent many long seasons looking for the remains of the fallen Drava see the change in the hand writing here? The inks show a massive age difference, he says here that he finally found the bones and discovered it was a female from the fact it had a small skull inside its bones”
Bill sighed “he drew the skull as best he could I worked for weeks on the image to get an approximate three dimensional figure of it” typing on the key pad he brought up one of his secure files which was the rendering of the skull and a human one for comparison they were all silent save bill
“I went to the world and the geologic data I deciphered from knowledge I learned in my geologic classes I shared with you Amy I found the area where the shaman had buried the remains, the worlds population has since died off but the Relica moved in and archived everything thus I got the book and went out and found the slide site and the shamans graveyard he had set up the drava had a prominent place in the cemetery ” they all knew if the relica moved in the worlds people had gone and the relica had taken over the planet ages ago turning it into one of their many colonies but they always saved the races buildings and artifacts as they came in believing that it all held the spirit of the lost race.
“So you found the skull?” Amy spoke in near a whisper
“No as the shamans beliefs say that the spirit is trapped in the skull till family or friend break it open for it to escape to be born again”
“He smashed them” tom sighed in dismay
“Exactly but I did find a piece of the lower jaw and could get a correct size of the skull from its size”
Amy spun around to the holo “so that’s correct for size? Wow they were big!”
“And they were omnivores as is seen by the teeth in the jaw sample” opening a box he showed them the jaw piece he sighed and put it away then the book finally looking at the scan of the mountain “they hid their military away because of the ugliness it represented a needed evil but ugly none the less so that mountain which is fake is more than likely a military base and filled with what we seek”
“We should tell the captain now then” tom spoke from his pillow as it went back to the head of the bed
Amy nearly got up to punch him “you idiot if we did that they’d rush in and we’d be stuck in the rotting ends of the research. Not just no, but hell no this is our project right bill?”
Who nodded with a smile, “okay so I need a team and I cant think of anyone else but you four so in accordance with that Amy air car Tom, Frank, supplies equipment were going be out for least a couple weeks so pack and load accordingly I’ll be getting stuff as well so don’t worry”
They nodded and smiled eager to begin Amy went out with them but bill knew her it was to keep an eye on tom who though he was a mechanical engineer apprentice was far more a brownnoser and would if given the chance tell his department head to get any easy credit than work for a big one
Bill laid back as the lights went out his palm itched a bit and he felt a bit warm and clicked on a fan above his head the cool moving air helped as he drifted off to sleep his thoughts went to his mentor who was sick in the medical frigate nearby and the fact he needed to tell him about all of it.
In the morning after much requesting and packing they had the air car filled to capacity with only minimal room for them he went to the captain who smiled
“Hey bill good thing you came first I wanted to give you clearance to go and also say good idea to take a primary med kit and first aid kits along with you I know your going long distance.where”
He sighed knowing this was coming last night the captain had records on everything the systems were used for so she’d seen his scan requests and his filing for priority of the main array system when it was done with the global deep mapping
“Were going to what should be a port facility near one of the biggest mountains on the planet “ now he thought if she asks for details I’m toast
She smiled looking over the system logs then him “okay you’re being suspicious again and hiding things but I understand I know the general area in case of emergency so you’re good to go. Oh your scan request is approved by the way just let the survey finish up, and you need to go speak to professor Higgins in the frigate, that’s an order and a formal request by the lead researcher”
He saluted knowing he’d avoided the noose again only cause the captain liked him “yes captain, I admit to avoiding Higgins but with him sick” he shrugged with a look of sadness
“I know but go tell him good un-stressful news, that’s an order” pushing him towards the medical frigate
Bill went along as the others finished up packing and getting ready walking up the ramp through the airlock into what clearly smelled of hospital the nurse at the desk immediately in front of the door smiled and waved him on “he’s expecting you William room 4J be quiet don’t let him over exert, not that anyone can”
He smiled as she sighed and went down the hall the sounds of electronic monitors and hiss of oxygen he walked past one room with one of the oldest team members at nearly 70 she was one of the most renound atmospheric specialists known. She had what looked to be one hell of a burn going and was soaking in burn gels and skin cell cultures
Knocking at the door he got a call to come in, his mentor and the lead archeologist on the mission the graying man smiled like he had just regained 30 years eyes glowing with unrepressed glee.
“Bill! Close the door come here tell me everything” waving energetically to him.
Closing the door bill smirked “okay boot leather calm down or the nurses will give ya a sedative”
He folded his arms “if they want a broken arm they will, anyhow come closer I need to talk to you”
Bill moved over and the man smiled leaning back bill could see he was weakened from the last time he’d seen him just before landing on the planet “okay Brian okay want the full formal report or the best parts?”
Brian smiled and guffawed “I want the juicy details I've heard about the rail tunnels but I know you your off after something far better talk mister”
“Don’t give me that I know you, you stole the book from the archives and went into a secured area to get any samples you could get, now talk young man”
“Okay I admit I got the book and a piece of Drava lower jaw but we needed the information for”
“I know about all of that you nut, I want a taste” holding out his hand to bill who smirked and produced a sample bag for him
“ Said it was a dried fruit called a Dakar” watching as the older man smiled and took out a purple and gold spotted fruit ring out of the bag
“No not yet but I did try some of the Drava version of maple syrup and a multi grain treat”
“Good we can finally do something together” tossing bill one of the rings bill took a bite as Brian did
“Hmm apple cranberry like taste” bill popped the rest in and smiled
Brian smiled and ate yet another “where you off too now bill”
“Mountain very, very big and very fake” grinning” I think I found it Brian I may have found the legendary tasssarris, the mountain of gods so called by a group of visitors to drava long, long ago”
“Excellent bill excellent, now I want you to know this. I think we all have a problem there is a virus or something here we all are now infected this is just a few of us that suspect it but it would explain much of the flu like cases we have. If there is a cure or an explanation it will be where the Drava met their end and that mountain is the key”
“I don’t know Brian after all this time a virus? Well I'm expecting it to be a military base to be honest”
“Ahh you and your ideal socitity theories, well just keep your eyes open and mind ready for anything alright?”
Bill nodded “I'm taking a geologist engineer and biologist with me as well so I think we have it covered”
“Always thinking ahead, good.” He paused and sighed looking at his lap “bill I also wanted to tell you that I’ve sent word to earth central that due to your efforts already we’ve recovered the time lost thus I've approved your application for graduation and now all you have to do now is finish your thesis and your ready to go out on your own”.
Bill hadn’t expected that “Brian why did”
“I don’t like my chances bill my heart wasn’t very good to begin with and now my BP is a lot higher than normal and I'm running a low grade fever, so I wanted to make sure you wouldn’t have to go through another bastard like me to finish and go out on your own okay get going no more talking I want to know if your right or am I what’s in that damn mountain”
Bill walked over an hugged him hard for a moment and walked out quickly running to the car he jumped in and drove silently for quite awhile his thoughts on so much that he had to thank Brian for over the years, finally Amy’s nudges got him to speak
“You getting tired yet bill?”
“No I'm fine, to excited to sleep”
“You’re a terrible liar bill. How is he? Bad?”
Bill glanced back and the others were out asleep “he’s worried we’ve all become infected with something from Drava, he’s got a fever and his heart is running faster than normal. He sent word to earth that I've passed my field tests and approved my graduation”
“Wow that’s great, but not for the fact that he might get really sick” putting her hand on his shoulder for comfort
“Well as for my being a bad liar I've never had to towards you yet, and yeah its not the way I wanted to get it done but its done they just want my final report to send me my paper of many freedoms. Just not the way I wanted to get it at all” looking away from Amy he flew through he night and set it on auto when he got tired in the morning.
Everyone slept for most of the trip stopping once for a bathroom break which they put into a sanitizer can built into the car then continued on to the site
Bill called up the newer deeper scan which as with the first scans showed a lot of interference from energy being reflected back at the antenna in orbit they would have about half a day to look around before they could get the relay sat in orbit to move into position and scan the mountain hard enough to find anything but he stopped and magnified a dry creek bed just to the southern side
“Hey Amy what’s that look like to you?” pointing to a series of cold spots on the thermal scan they were regularly spaced and the metal scan showed high concentrations of the aluminum alloy at each spot
“Doors, hatch covers of some kind” looking at her terminal as it moved to the same readout bill’s was on “yes id definitely say some kind of artificial covers that the undersides are a lot colder than the surrounding ground thermal mass”
“Tunnels? Looking at the general flow of covers and straightness” gesturing to the line of dark colors he typed and brought up the new rail tunnel scans and ran a general line along the covers right to a side tunnel which turned off a rail main tunnel heading right for the mountain which wasn’t under the distortion of the mountains shielding
“And there it is we’ve found a rail tunnel directly to the mountain” Amy smiled pride fully
Bill grinned “thing is there has to be surface access so we still need to do a main scan”
“I agree” franks said from the drivers seat “ if that is a military base then we need to find the equipment access hatches, any deep dead end canyons around the base Amy? Bill?”
“Were looking keep your shirt on” bill snapped at him finding several around the base and a couple higher up the sides Amy nodded and added her finds to the map list and they soon set down at the bottom of one of these canyons
Bill stood there stunned by the depth of the cleft Amy was already whacking on a rock nearby eagerly looking for samples
Bill had his armband loaded with the scan data and was looking at the thermal to see if there was any oddities to the cleft franks and Amy both called out and bill went over
She smiled pointing to a flat chunk of metal the rock she’d been hitting broken off it
“Some kind of heavy duty epoxy bill once I get a sample I can reverse engineer it and bam we’ve got a great new adhesive” examining the rock he was picking at a flake about to fall off it bill smiled at frank and turned to Amy
“Okay rock lady is this natural or built for this shape? “
“Built no doubt about it the shape is all wrong for normal weathering and most of the rocks in this cleft show signs of severe heating and cooling” pointing to several clear examples
“No plant life at all bill if there is its tiny nothing deep rooting” tom called out from his examinations of several small bushes “the water is very, very close to the surface here and it doesn’t leave much along the way of nutrients, soil or foundation for plants”
Bill looked at his armband “fifteen minutes till we can get a hard scan of the west side of this big monster lets go get into the area and choose a good spot to scan”
Moving along they found a triple set of clefts and a deep cut with more doors in it near the bottoms of them they set down off to the side in the cleft the others quickly setting up for the scan and getting something to eat bill walked along the gully scuffing marks in the gravel marking the doors or covers closest to the car
“Bill the satellite is coming around its asking for priority markers!!”
He ran over and pulled one out of the bag then up into the left cleft then ran back over
The holo’s showed it located the beacon and was relaying that to the station which was then sending the scan beam to the satellite
Bill quickly configured the satellite to aim at a low angle to get in under the rock ledges and possibly the shielding it confirmed and started the scan the moment it showed it was getting a good clean signal and was penetrating whatever was there a flash blinded them all and the satellite was gone
Bill blinked rubbing his eyes “damn what was that!”
Amy stumbled into him “the flash came from the center cleft!”
“My scanner showed a massive energy spike then it shut down due to overload” frank was trying to restart his equipment
Bill got on his terminal and had to wait till the signal found another satellite then get to the station asking for the scan data he got a single image from the data and only a partial one at that, a big door like structure and loads of bracing Amy was with frank and tom looking over his shoulder
“Now that’s a door” tom sat down clearly still bothered by the flash
“Amy I’ll bet all these clefts have some kind of self defense net over them we just set it off ill bet the doors are severely heavy and nearly impossible to cut through looking at that” pointing to the partial scan
She folded her arms looking at frank ”and just how are we supposed to get in then”
Bill smiled “the rail tunnels of course already under one or more layers of the shielding the guns wont fry us there but there may well be more at issue there but we can only keep looking around the whole thing but my best guess is the tunnels will get us a way in”