Authors: Robert Doherty
Tags: #Space ships, #Area 51 (Nev.), #High Tech, #Unidentified flying objects, #Political, #General, #Science Fiction, #Plague, #Adventure, #Extraterrestrial beings, #Fiction, #Espionage
Turcotte waved the men to follow him as he headed for the nearest building.
Lisa Duncan was slammed back as the catapult pulled the E-2C Hawkeye down the deck. Her stomach flipped as the plane dropped off the front end of the flight deck. The nose of the plane lifted and it began climbing through the rain.
The pilot banked the plane hard as he turned toward the south. Duncan looked over her shoulder at the George Washington, then the carrier was gone in the mist.
She settled back in her seat. She felt slightly guilty. It would have taken only several more hours for Turcotte to return to the John C. Stennis and catch a flight to the Washington, but she didn't want to wait. According to flight ops, she would land on the Stennis, its battle group in the South Pacific about a thousand miles east of New Zealand, just thirty minutes after Turcotte returned from Antarctica. Once she linked up with him, they could formulate the next step before she left for Russia. The fact that foo fighters were active, although sticking close to Easter Island, was unsettling. It also bothered her that the guardian had been into the Interlink for a day before anyone at the NSA noticed. She found that very hard to believe.
"Can you connect me with the NSA?" she asked the crewman seated next to her.
"Yes, ma'am," he replied.
While she waited, she felt a vibration on her thigh. She pulled her SATPhone out of her pocket and flipped it open.
"Dr. Duncan, it is my pleasure to speak with you."
Duncan tried to place the man's voice but couldn't. Her SATPhone number was classified and only a few people had access to it.
"That is not important, Dr. Duncan. I am unimportant."
"Then I guess I don't have a need to speak to you," Duncan said.
"If it matters to you, for the purpose of this conversation, you can call me Harrison."
"And what can I do for you, Mr. Harrison?"
"The shuttle launches. Why is UNAOC in a rush to get back to the mothership?"
That was a question Duncan herself had.
"There is danger there," Harrison said.
"What kind of danger?"
"The same danger there always was," Harrison said. "The mothership's drive must not be activated."
"The ruby sphere was destroyed," Duncan said.
"Do you think there was only one?"
Again Duncan had no answer.
"Why do you think there is a rush to get to the mothership?" he asked once more.
"I don't know," Duncan said. "Why don't you tell me."
"There is a plan. It must be stopped."
"The guardian. Aspasia's guardian. There is much you don't know. Majestic did not uncover the guardian computer they brought to Dulce in Temiltepec."
"How do you know that?"
"Look to the south, Dr. Duncan. Look to the south. If you find where it came from, you can find the history, and history is most important."
"Where did the Dulce guardian come from?"
"I don't have much time. There is danger," Harrison said. "The Black Death is coming once again."
"What are you talking about? Who are you?"
"I will send you proof. Then you must act before it is too late. It is already too late for me. I am violating an oath in speaking to you, but we underestimated what would happen and how quickly it would come. There was interference."
"Who is 'we'? What are you talking about?" Duncan asked, but the connection was cut.
"Must you kill?" Che Lu asked.
Lo Fa spit into the bush he was hiding behind. "Old
woman, I do not tell you how to dig in those old places you root around in. Do not tell me how to do my business. You told me to have my people find this place. We have found it—but the army was here first. If you want what is there"—he pointed to the wreckage of the American helicopter—"then we must get rid of the army people."
"There has been so much killing," Che Lu said, but it was an observation, not an argument. She knew the old man was right. This was his business, and the stakes were too high to take chances.
They heard the incoming helicopter, and Lo Fa gave his final orders. Two of his men dashed to the left, an RPG rocket launcher in the backpack of one of them. Lo Fa led the way to the right, closer to the crash site and the two Chinese soldiers. Che Lu followed. She had done the Long March with Mao; she could walk a little farther before her days were done.
Che Lu was seventy-eight years old, bent and wrinkled with age. Her eyes, though, were the same they had been when she had walked across China, six thousand miles, as a young girl—bright and sparkling, without the need of glasses to aid her vision. She was—had been— the senior professor of archaeology at Beijing University. Now she knew she could never go back to Beijing. Even here, far in the western provinces, they had heard of more rioting in the capital city, of students again being gunned down in the streets. But this rebellion did not look as if it was going away as quickly as the one in 1989.
Not when men like Lo Fa were picking up arms in the countryside.
Lo Fa was a bandit. Or had been. Che Lu found it amusing that while she had lost her prestigious position as a professor, events had changed Lo Fa's status from bandit to guerrilla.
She paused in her thoughts as a rocket flashed out of the trees and hit the incoming helicopter square-on. The aircraft careened over, blades splintering treetops, before crashing into the ground.
The Chinese Army lieutenant and his sergeant stared dumbfounded at the burning helicopter for a few seconds, then they turned and ran in the opposite direction. Directly into Lo Fa's ambush. They were both cut down in a quick burst of automatic fire. It was all over in less than thirty seconds. Che Lu had seen much violence in her life, and it never failed to amaze her how quickly death could come. She had lived many years, and she always wondered why certain people—like the soldiers who had just died—would never have the opportunity to live as many years as she had been given. She did not know whether it was simply random chance or if there was a higher power that determined the course of things. Or if it was both.
The longer she lived, the more she realized how little she knew. Discovering the alien artifacts inside of Qian-Ling the previous week when she had entered it on an archaeological dig had certainly proven that truth once more. It was just as well that she would not be back at the university, because she knew that everything she had taught was now questionable. The entire history of mankind was going to have to be rewritten.
Che Lu arrived at the wreckage of the American helicopter. She looked down at the dead men. Lo Fa grabbed the leather notebook and presented it to Che Lu.
"We must be away quickly," Lo Fa hissed as Che Lu opened the notebook.
She pointed at Professor Nabinger. "You must bury the American. He was a good man. And he gave us the key to Qian-Ling." She shook the notebook at Lo Fa.
"Crazy old woman," Lo Fa muttered, but he yelled commands to quickly do as she wished.
There was a part of Kelly Reynolds that was still her own. That the guardian couldn't touch. It wasn't a large part of her mind, but it was enough for her to still have an "I." A self.
And that self, even while the guardian's golden tendril was weaving its way through her brain, was able to go in the other direction. The mind connection from the guardian, as Peter Nabinger had learned when he "saw" the destruction of Atlantis while in contact with the Qian-Ling guardian, was a two-way street.
While the guardian learned from her, Kelly was able to catch bits and pieces from it.
She saw the long column of men pulling on fiber ropes. Women between the men and the object they were pulling, placing logs under the front end of the stone so it could roll. Slowly being pulled over the logs was the greatest of all the Moai, the stone figures that the people carved.
Rapa Nui, they called their island. It would be westerners who would name it Easter Island. The stone they were pulling had already been shaped into the long-eared, long-faced, head shape and weighed over ninety tons. It had been carved out of the flank of Rano Raraku, one of the two volcanoes on the island.
The other volcano, Rano Kao, was forbidden to the people except to worship in the sacred village of Orongo. Also, every year, the cult of the Birdman held its festival, where young men would climb down the side of the volcano, jump into the sea, and swim to the small island of Moto Nui off the coast. The first one to return with a tern egg would be the Birdman for the following year.
Kelly could hear the people chanting in unison as they
pulled the stone. Their destination was several miles away, the shoreline, where they would place the statue into the ground, the frowning face pointing out to sea.
Kelly now understood the statues. Why these people went through such great efforts. To carve them, to haul them miles to the shore, to place them on their altars. They were warnings. To other people. To stay away.
"Someone was here not too long ago." Turcotte picked up a frozen cup of coffee from the table. He turned it upside down. There was a date stamped on the bottom—1996—thirty years after Majestic had shut down the base. There was sophisticated communications equipment—top-of-the-line satellite systems and modern computers in the commo room.
"But they're not here now," Captain Miller said. "Must have beat the foo fighters' arrival."
Turcotte walked out of the room he was in and along a corridor. He pushed open the door, stepped inside, then stopped in shock. The large room held ten large vertical vats that were full of some amber-colored liquid. Turcotte had seen this before—at the bottom level of Majestic's biolab at Dulce. He stepped closer to the nearest vat. It had something in it.
Turcotte stepped back as he made out a body inside. There were tubes coming in and out of the body, and the entire head was encased in a black bulb with numerous wires going into it. He pulled off his glove and carefully touched the glass—it was very cold, the liquid inside frozen.
"What the hell is that?" Miller asked.
"STAAR," Turcotte said.
"What do you mean?
"I think this is how they get new recruits."
Through night-vision goggles, Toland continued to scan the forty-foot section of trail that was directly in front of his position. He knew the exact placement of every one of his eighteen men and their weapons. All they had to do was fire between the left and right limits of the aiming stakes they'd carefully pounded into the ground during daylight and the kill zone would become just that to the party approaching their location.
Toland had chosen this spot because it was where the trail ran straight, with a steep slope on the far side. Anyone on the trail would be caught between the weapons of Toland's men and the slope, which was carefully laced with some of Faulkener's "specials." The trail ran through the only pass in a hundred miles where people could cross from the eastern, inland slope of the Andes in Bolivia to the western. The terrain was low enough on this eastern approach to be just below the tree line, steep and heavily vegetated. Farther up the pass there was snow on the ground.
The mercenaries had flown separately on commercial flights into La Paz the previous day and assembled at the airport. Toland had hired several trucks to take them as far as the roads would go into the Andes. From there Toland had led his men on foot through the pass.
Toland heard someone moving behind him. He assumed it was Faulkener, his senior NCO, and that was confirmed when Faulkener tapped him on the shoulder.
"Andrews has a message on the SAT. He's copying it down."
Toland twisted his head and looked over his shoulder into the thick jungle.
Andrews was back there with the satellite radio, their lifeline.
No time for it, Toland realized as he heard noise coming down the trail. He returned his attention to the matter at hand. There was the sound of loose equip-
ment jangling on men as they walked; even some conversations were carried through the night air.
The point man came into view. Jesus, Toland swore to himself, the fool was using a flashlight to see the trail. And not even one with a red lens! It looked like a spotlight in the goggles. Toland adjust the control and looked for the rear of the column.
There were thirteen men and two women in this group. There were more shovels than weapons scattered among them. They were also carrying two of their number on makeshift litters—ponchos tied between two poles.
Toland pulled off the goggles, letting them dangle around his neck on a cord.
He fit the stock of the Sterling submachine gun into his shoulder. His finger slid over the trigger. With his other hand he picked up a plastic clacker.
The man with the flashlight was just opposite when Toland pushed down on the handle of the clacker. A claymore mine seared the night sky, sending thousands of steel ball bearings into the marching party at waist level.
As the screams of those not killed by the initial blast rang out, Toland fired, his 9mm bullets joining those of his men. The rest of the marchers melted under the barrage. A few survivors followed their instincts instead of their training and ran away from the roar of the bullets, scrambling up the far slope, tearing their fingernails in the dirt in desperation.
"Now," Toland said.
It wasn't necessary. Faulkener knew his job. In the strobelike flashes from the muzzles of the weapons, the fleeing people were visible. Faulkener pressed the button on a small radio control he held in his hand and the hillside spouted flames. A series of claymore mines,
which Faulkener had woven into the far slope at just the right angle to kill those fleeing and not hit the ambushers on the far side of the kill zone, wiped out the few survivors.
"Let's police this up!" Toland called as he stood.
He pulled up his night-vision goggles and watched. Faulkener took up position at the other end of the kill zone. Toland's mercenaries descended like ghouls upon the bodies, hands searching. A shot rang out as one of the bodies turned out to be not quite dead.