I - Entrance
This novel is a continuation of Book I:
Chapter I – Entrance
“The act of coming back.”
Date: Friday, July 13, 1894
Location: Oakland Mill, Maryland
Nicholas Steele stood before the recently laid foundation for his new cotton mill. Twilight surrounded the small mill town as the remaining quarry workers finished unloading their wagons for the day. It was a long time coming, the new mill. The previous one burned down two years ago under mysterious circumstance six months after Steele acquired the mill property of Oakland at auction.
The previous owners, James, John, and Charles Melville had mismanaged the mill into a loss. The brothers didn’t work well together. Consequently, the friction led to mismanagement and their mortgage went into arrears in 1890. The mill went up for auction the same year. Steele purchased the mill for $7,900, several thousand less than James Melville claimed to have invested in the property. With the property of Oakland auctioned to Steele, a quarrelsome Melville refused to leave his mansion while continuing to cry foul over the lowball figure of the sale. Steele ended up having the law eject Melville off the property.
In June of 1892, Nicholas Steele officially took control of the mill. Six months later, the mill building burned to the ground. An investigation into the fire bore no evidence of Melville’s involvement. Steele knew better. Melville made too many threats in the past not to be involved.
In January of 1894, Steele brought in a partnership of local investors Herbert Hooper, Henry Parr, Arthur Spice, and James Merritt to rebuild the mill. Together they formed the Oakland Manufacturing Company of Carroll County. The partnership became necessary to rebuild the cotton mill. Steele wanted a state of the art mill and he would have it. The latest fire-fighting technology would be used to avoid another disastrous fire should Melville or one of his cronies come back to stir up trouble.
Partner James Merritt lived locally, opting to move to Oakland to oversee his stake in the partnership. Steele particularly liked James Merritt with his thick German accent. He wasn’t quite sure how a German man ended up with such a traditional English surname. He never bothered to ask. Merritt had money and business was business.
Steele walked the parameter of the new mill’s foundation. The remains of the old, burned out mill loomed ominously on the other end of the Patapsco Falls. Steele stared at it and shook his head. Merritt suggested they not tear down the old two-story mill. They should instead fix it up and using it as a warehouse. It made sense to Steele to do so. It would be a cheaper alternative than building a new one. Merritt always had good advice. He was a natural problem solver.
It came as no surprise to Steele when Merritt approached the site for the new mill as the last quarry wagon left for the evening. He was a hands on person and involved in just about every geological aspect of Oakland. “Good evening, Mister Merritt.”
“And to you, Mr. Steele. How are you this evening?”
Aund to you, Meeztah Zteele. Hau arr you zis zeeving?
“That ragamuffin fellow directing the quarry workers, I find him quite peevish.”
“He cavils over the cost of every load. I would have thought him more complaisant upon the decision to cart stone from our own quarry instead of Mineral Hill.”
Merritt nodded. It was originally the intent of the partnership to bring in adit debris from the Mineral Hill mine shafts. In the months before construction would begin on the new mill, the Carroll County government closed Mineral Hill due to the landholder’s debt. The county would now use the debris to fill and seal the three mineshafts. “Our quarry is certainly in closer neighborhood. Mineral Hill is many more miles in distance from here.”
“Indeed, sir,” Steele said as he studied the south most foundation. “He vexes me with his back and forward over cost. He continues to insist upon the prices set forth for the Mineral Hill run.”
“That is not a fair expectation on his part,” Merritt said in agreement.
“The old gull. He knows his own rectitude of conduct is lacking. His services are underrated, I say.”
“I’ll speak with him,” Merritt said looking upward into the clear sky. Shades of purple and pink illuminated the horizon as stars blinked into visibility. “He is in the fag end of his life, you know. I do not believe he fully understands the complexion has changed since the drawing of the original contract.”
“Perchance,” Steele said under his breath as he joined Merritt at the side of the manure-laden road. “By all appearances, he’s pretty well over the bay most of the time.”
Merritt laughed. “The man does enjoy his spirits.”
“Six cents per one hundred pounds, he wants. He affronts me with his demands. Hauls to Baltimore cost less!”
“I will speak with him, Mr. Steele.”
“Thank you, Mr. Merritt. Your diplomacy in these matters is most helpful.”
“Think nothing of it.”
Steele changed the subject. “I engaged in a rather lengthy palaver with Mr. Spice last eve over the machinery for the new mill. He favorably believes fifty horsepower turbines will more than double the output of the old mill. Would you concur?”
Merritt nodded. “I would. I was not aware we could obtain such a machine from Westminster.”
“Baltimore,” Steele said in correction. “The cost to ship to Westminster from Ohio is higher.”
Merritt was about to inquire about the cost of shipping from Baltimore when a bright flash in the western sky caught the attention of both men.
“Did you see that?” Steele asked.
“I did.” Merritt scanned the sky noting the absence of any storm clouds. “It must have been heat lightning.”
A trail of fire streaked across the sky. It burned out into nothing. “A meteor shower, do you think?” Steele asked.
“Possibly,” Merritt replied while peering at the horizon. He was certain what he witnessed was no meteorite. A thundering boom shook the area. Bars of iron leaning again a wooden wheelbarrow next to the mill foundation rattled. They slowly slid off and onto the ground.
“What in the hell was that?’ Steele asked, now concerned at the usual events transpiring before him. “It certainly was not thunder. There is nary a cloud in the sky.”
“I believe the meteor we witnessed stuck outside the skirts of the town,” Merritt said. He knew his explanation was false and only offered it to keep Steele calm. Merritt knew the sound was the breaching of the sound barrier. It wasn’t something a meteor would do.
Steele glanced at Merritt. He appeared mildly relieved. “If you say as much, good sir. Be it what is will, it caused me a moment of panic.”
“You have nothing to fear, Mr. Steele,” Merritt said attempting to reassure his partner with another lie. “There is no cause for harrowed up dread. These sorts of events exceed rarity. If the workers or towns people inquire, explain it to them as I have to you.”
Steele laughed. “For aught I know, nary a one would understand the nature of the meteorite.”
Merritt shrugged. “If they are graveled, explain we experienced a weather incident. It should prevent any local tattle of the end times.”
Steele laughed again. “Indeed, sir. The common folk are easily inveigled. I will expect church service attendance this Sunday to go on record as the largest this year.”
Merritt ignored Steele’s remark of disdain for the lower class. Nevertheless, the quip about the local Methodists would be accurate. Since introducing himself to their church, Merritt discovered the local folks embraced their religion feverously. “I would however prefer to return to my manor to ensure my loose belongings are undamaged and my harridan of a wife calmed.”
Steele grinned. Merritt’s wife had a reputation for overacting. “Of course, Mr. Merritt. Please give my best to your missus. And you will speak to the Sawney who leads the quarry workers?”
“I will, sir. On both counts”
“A pleasant evening to you then, Mr. Merritt.”
“And to you, Mr. Steele.”
James Merritt returned to his manor at the south end of Oakland directly across the other side of Liberty Road. His wife, Christel, stood on the faded white wraparound porch awaiting his return. “Fühlten Sie sich die Störung?” She asked.
“In English, please. You require the exercise.”
Christel offered him an annoyed glance. “Did you feel the disturbance, Richaurdus?”
Merritt glanced around his property in discomfort ensuring others were not nearby. “You should be referring to me as James and me you as Mary. What if someone heard you?”
“I am sorry, James. Come inside. Tell me what has happened.” Merritt walked up the solid oak steps onto the covered porch. He stopped at the top and turned to look over the valley of Oakland. The town remained calm, which was good.
James Merritt, also known as Richaurdus (or Tom Richards to the next generation) walked into the manor with his faux wife. “I think we have a problem, Christebelus.”
She cocked her head and stood with her hands on her hips. “Are we dropping protocol now?”
“At the core, I am quite serious. Something entered the atmosphere of the planet this eve. It was no meteorite. Only an air ship able of faster than sound flight could create such a disturbance. Humans have not yet achieved air flight. I fear a ship of Herrenrasse has arrived.”
The Herrenrasse - whom humanity would come to call the Brüder - originated from Oberen, the fifth planet orbiting the star Deneb (also called Alpha Cygni) a little over three thousand light years from Earth.
“Oh dearest Trinity!” Christel said tapping her right shoulder once, her left once, her abdomen once and finally straight up to her throat. “Are they die Widerstand, do you hope?”
“I do not know. Considering the distance, it is unlikely the occupants of the ship are reinforcements from Oberen. If they are not of die Widerstand, they are a remnant of the Ausrottung.”
“After so much time has passed? With a ship as fast as light?”
“Nothing is out of the realm of possibility. I will consult with Caspaurdus.” Richaurdus left the foyer to enter the den where he kept his Hardy and Walker floor safe. Christel moved to stand watch at the front door. Richaurdus required this of her when accessing the sensitive contents of the safe. From within the safe, he withdrew a handheld communication device and a loaded Smith and Wesson firearm. “Are we alone?”
Richaurdus opened the communicator. Its holographic interface blinked to life. He tapped in a string of data and awaited a reply. One came after several seconds.
“Bodenstation ein. Sie sind ein Fremder?” (Earth Station One. Are you a stranger?)
“I am a friend. This is Richaurdus. I must consult with you regarding an atmospheric disturbance. It occurred within the last count of fifteen minutes.”
“Within the skirts of Oakland?”
“Or Baltimore. I am unsure of the exact distance. Nicholas Steele and I witnessed the reentry of a possible Herrenrasse spacecraft. He is assured the fire in the sky is that of a meteorite falling to Earth and the sound disturbance its impact.”
“You believe different?”
“I do. If they are Herrenrasse and they are not friends then they will certainly make contact with die Korporation. I require you to examine radio waves for the area. If additional Widerstand are among us then we much search for them. I will search the north skirts of town this eve.”
Christel glanced at Richaurdus over her shoulder. “Are you taking that device with you?”
“I must. If die Widerstand contacts are close by, I might resolve their whereabouts with it.” Christel was cross. “I will employ the greatest importance. No human shall see it.”
She turned away and said nothing. “Never should I have agreed to be your wife in this matter, Richaurdus. I am not ready to pose as a human, in a human body.”
“You are excelling in your effort, Christel. I would not have considered you for the task if I did not believe you are ready. Please do not worry in excess. By and by, we will continue our role in Oakland to protect station one and its egresses until additional Widerstand arrive.”
“I will try, Richau—James.”
Caspaurdus interrupted their conversation. “You are expecting additional Widerstand, Richaurdus?”
“I am. It will soon be time to begin our search for those able to function as keepers of the Trinity elements.”
Christel gasped. “They have been lost for ages,” she said, forgetting her place at the door. “Do you know where they are?”
“I do not. Soon the time will be upon us for their return.”
Richaurdus wasn’t lying, but he also wasn’t completely forthcoming. Christel and Caspaurdus didn’t know the Oberen government of old urged the Trinity rings moved to Earth where repopulation of the Herrenrasse species was to begin. Those plans originated long before the Brüder declared the human experiment a failure and implemented of the Ausrottung, the weather event that flooded and reshaped the planet while killing everything on it. In the tens of thousands of Earth years that followed, The Oberen government spread rumors of the loss of the Trinity rings while never revealing the truth: die Widerstand now possessed them. In the days prior to the Ausrottung, Richaurdus and other die Widerstand stole all three from the moon observatory and distributed them among three trusted members of the movement. The three fled Earth. Where they now hid, Richaurdus didn’t know. All involved agreed to the decision in the name of safekeeping. Richaurdus also ordered them to return to Earth one age after the Ausrottung. Sometime between the years of 1890 and 1915 in Earth time.
“And what happens then, if I may ask, Richaurdus?” Christel asked. “Put the finger rings in your safe? Do you truly believe your plan of action prudent?”
“I concur,” Caspaurdus added.
Richaurdus stood up to Christel’s standoffish posture. “No. That is not my intent. Until such time Markaurdus arrives from Oberen to see over the elements and choose new keepers, they shall remain within station ein under security protocols only I or Caspaurdus may access.” Richaurdus turned his attention to the communicator. “I must go now, Caspaurdus. Please contact me if you find abnormal radio waves. I leave you as a friend.”
“And I,” he said. Richaurdus closed the communicator and slipped it into his front trouser pocket.
Christel stood away from the open front door in irritation with crossed arms. She made no effort to move. “I want to speak with you, Richaurdus! Where will you locate Herrenrasse within die Widerstand to carry the trinity elements? Legends tell that a keeper must be born with the knowledge to use any of the three.”
“Yes, Christel. I do not dispute this.”
“Where do you find them? There are so few left.”
“The answer may lie among humans.”
Christel gasped with visible flummox. “You can not be serious!”
“I am. Do not trouble yourself with these matters, Christel. Our people engineered humans to accept the Trinity elements. The original plan called for our people to inhabit human bodies when they would become viable. Simply because that time never came to pass does not mean the compatibility is nonexistent. Upon the arrival of Markaurdus and with his guidance, the search shall begin. It may take thousands of years. I believe the future of our race lies with humans on this planet. It will likely be humans using the Trinity elements who will stand with us against our people to end their reign not only on this planet, but on Oberen as well.”
“I find the idea of a human holding any Trinity element offensive,” Christel said defiantly.
“I have told you before Christel, humans are the future. Deneb is dying and with it Oberen. I do not believe the scenarios of failure you obsess over to be a possibility. I believe there are humans who have the capacity to stand, step forward, and join in our struggle. They will be special. They will stand out from other humans. They will not believe in organized Earth religions and possibly shunned for it. They will understand depths of the seele that most will not.” Christel closed her eyes in defiance of the concept. She said nothing. “I must go now, Christel. I shall return before the dawn.”