The Mysterious Relic
“It’s not so much tell as it’s show,” Dan declared as he opened his satchel, pulling out a strange-looking object and sitting it on the coffee table. “We found this thing in sector 256, deep in the machinery area,” Dan informed. “It’s unlike anything else we’ve found. All of our tests on it are inconclusive.”
Hannibal withdrew his arm from around Selina and leaned forward to examine the curiosity. “Indeed,” he agreed, staring at the object. “This is truly strange and I’ve seen strange, especially after that screwed-up nightmare I had this morning before getting up.”
“What nightmare, Hannibal?” Selina asked.
“I’ll tell you about it later,” Hannibal replied. “It’s so messed up that I’m going to have to work up the courage to share it again.”
“Okay,” Selina purred, “let me know when you’re ready to tell it. My ear is always open if you care to use it.”
Hannibal nodded as he continued to stare at the item. “This is really an enigma. I haven’t a clue as to what it is. What do you think, Selina? Have you seen anything like this in your travels?” he asked, gently picking up the oddity that was no bigger than a mid-sized portable radio.
Selina gingerly took the odd Relic from Hannibal and carefully examined it from every angle. “Very strange,” she commented. The Relic appeared to be an eight-sided pyramid with a strange spherical crystal at the apex of the pyramid. The crystal spanned nearly two inches in diameter with hundreds of facets. It seemed to be fastened to the pyramid with an unusual golden holder with eight protrusions that resembled claws. The claws reached up two-thirds of the way on the surface of the crystal. The crystal’s color consisted of a weird, unearthly translucent tint of magenta and scarlet mixed. The octagonal pyramid sat on a larger, eight-sided base that flared out three more inches beyond the four-inch thick base of the pyramid, which tapered in slightly so that the bottom was just a bit smaller than the top of the base. Each of the pyramid’s facets matched up with the facets of the base, which changed proportionally. Where the pyramid and the base came together, a golden seam nearly half an inch wide ringed it. In association with this golden ring were what appeared to be a golden ribbon or strap that reached from midway down on the base terminating in a point to the golden seam, and then up the pyramid a couple of inches from the golden seam, terminating there in a point as well. Eight of these straps, which were a quarter inch wide lined each facet edge of the pyramid and were engraved with extreme detail in a weird and unusual type of writing that vaguely resembled a combination of hieroglyphics and cuneiform writing. These symbols covered both the straps and golden ring seam. Along each facet of the base about two inches up from the bottom lay a singular seven-sided hole with what looked to be some kind of precious stone recessed inside it. On the very bottom in the middle of the base lay a small octagonal hole with a thin slot that extended about an inch on opposite sides of the hole. The pyramid and base glowed very slightly and appeared to be composed of some unknown metal that looked like a combination of gold, platinum, and mercury. The entirety of its surface with the exception of the very bottom of the base lay etched with the same strange writing as was on the straps and golden seam. Selina looked very carefully at it, slowly rotating it as she examined it. “I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anything like this,” she declared, “but it does remind me of something I heard of in a myth on my planet. Has my father seen it?”
“Yes,” Dan said. “He got a good look at it the other day right after we found it.”
“What did he say about it?” Hannibal asked.
“He hasn’t seen anything like it either. But one thing he was able to come up with is the metal this thing is made out of is the same metal that’s in the books,” Dan informed.
“You’re kidding,” Hannibal returned, intrigued with the report.
“No, I’m not. It’s apparently the same metal,” Dan said.
“Well that just deepens the mystery, doesn’t it?” Hannibal stated. “You said you found this in area 256? Tell me exactly what the place looked like.”
“This thing was found in a room that was about fifty feet across,” Dan said. “The door was booby trapped so that anyone who tried to open the door would be cut to pieces.”
Hannibal looked at Harry, and then at Selina, who was still absorbed in studying the Relic. He remembered the map and the diabolical trap that killed one of his closest friends years before and shuddered slightly. “Did the blades come out of the ceiling, floor, and walls timed with perfect precision to cut anything to pieces within their reach?” he asked.
Dan cast a strange, puzzled look at Hannibal. “Why yes. It did,” Dan stated. “We lost Franklin that day. I warned him to be careful but he didn’t pay any attention and paid the ultimate price for his folly. After it happened, I was reminded of how you lost David finding the map. That booby trap was an extremely nasty piece of work. After Franklin was killed, the others paid much closer attention to my instructions.”
“I should hope so,” Hannibal replied. “Being chopped into fish bait by an ancient trap is not a good way to die.”
“Well, how did you get past it?” Harry asked.
“There were several things we had to do to get into that room,” Dan began. “The first thing was to disengage the blades.”
“The floor immediately in front of the door was pressure sensitive, wasn’t it?” Hannibal surmised.
“Yes, it was. The blades operated within six feet of the door set at three-inch intervals and could cut through steel as if it were butter,” Dan declared.
“No kidding,” Hannibal replied. “You tried to jam the blades and they cut through everything you put in front of them?”
“It did,” Dan stated. “After we retrieved Franklin’s remains using poles to drag him out of the trap, we used I-beams to hopefully stop the blades. They sliced though the beams like a laser.”
“Those blades must be made of a material unknown to our science to be able to cut through steel like that,” Hannibal murmured. “Okay, what did you do next?”
“Anyway, once we realized we weren’t going to be able to jam the blades, we tested the floor, finding it pressure sensitive from five feet of the door to two and a half feet of the door,” Dan explained. “Anything on the floor in that area sets off the machinery. The blades reach from six feet to two feet of the door, coming out of the floor, walls, and ceiling with such speed and precision that they barely could be seen. Once we found the extent of the trigger, we made a little bridge to cross that area of floor to stay off it. During that time of experimentation, we noticed a very small toggle on the wall next to the door so when we got across the trigger, we threw the switch and then proceeded to test the floor again. That time nothing happened; the blades didn’t come out. I jury-rigged a lock on the switch so that it couldn’t be re-engaged, re-setting the trap. As deadly as the blades were, they were only a minor inconvenience. The door, however, was another story altogether. The door had writing and figures all over it. The lock consisted of a series of seven riddles set inside a strange panel. Press the appropriate sequence of figures in answer of the 1st riddle and it would trigger the next riddle. Answer wrong and a set of guillotine blades made of the same material as the other blades would come down right on the spot where the combination on the door was, resetting the lock, and shuffling the riddles so we’d have to start from scratch. That made the chore of opening the door not just difficult, but right down dangerous. After seeing that first trap dice Franklin, I felt ill at ease with setting the combination in person. Therefore, we rigged up a pole with which we could push the figures from beyond the first set of blades. It was a fortunate move since our first answer was wrong, revealing the guillotine blades right at the door. Those blades sliced through our aluminum poles like butter. We spent almost a month trying to figure out the riddles and disengage that trap. Eventually, we figured out the riddles and opened the door.”
“Riddles are common in ancient locks,” Hannibal murmured. “But to have a series of seven riddles is not. That indicates a level of security that borders on the absurd. And the fact you say that the riddles shuffled when you got it wrong indicates that whoever sealed this Relic away in that room did so with the thought of never letting it see the light of day ever again. At what point did you realize the riddles were repeating?”
“About two weeks into our attempts to open it,” Dan stated. “When we hit the first riddle wrong and set off the blades, we noticed that as the blades descended the riddle panel changed.”
“How did it change?” Hannibal asked.
“The riddle sat in a window,” Dan stated. “The material the riddle was written on rotated when the blades came down, revealing another riddle after the blades recycled.”
“Interesting,” Hannibal said softly, rubbing his chin. “So the door had some kind of clockwork mechanism in it.”
“That’s my guess,” Dan stated. “I’ve never seen such an elaborate mechanism in a door like that before.”
“What was the hardest riddle?” Harry asked.
“It was the last riddle we answered,” Dan stated, “the one that finally opened the door. It went something like this: It devours all: birds, beasts, grass, flowers, trees, peasants, kings; even the gods must answer to it; it crumbles iron; grinds steel into meal; extinguishes light yet dispels darkness; swallows stars whole; dries up seas and floods all; consumes life yet brings it forth; it gouges valleys deep and breaks the great high mountains down with its mighty hands.”
“Whoa,” Hannibal replied. “That’s a hard one all right.”
“Indeed,” Harry agreed. “That one will definitely leave you scratching your head.”
“Well, it stumped some of our best researchers,” Dan stated. “We’d been working on that riddle for almost ten days when Nathanael and Selina proved their cleverness and answered the riddle correctly.”
Selina looked up from her inspection of the Relic with a smile as Hannibal glanced over at her. “Yes, that’s right,” she purred. “My dad and I mulled over that riddle for days when it suddenly became obvious what the answer was.”
“Well, what was it?” Harry asked.
“Before I answer, you try to figure it out for yourself, Harry,” Selina stated. “The answer to that conundrum is so big and so obvious that it hides itself in plain sight.”
Harry’s living room became quiet as a tomb. Hannibal rubbed his chin with his hand as he pondered the riddle. After five minutes, Harry blurted out, “I give up. This one is beyond my measly intellect.”
“Don’t give up,” Selina urged. “It’s staring you in the face. What does all those things? It’s something we cannot escape no matter where we go or what we do.”
Mary’s face suddenly lit up in epiphany when she happened to glance at the wall clock. “Time,” she said. “The answer is time. It’s the one thing, the only thing that does all those things.”
“Bravo,” Selina crowed. “That’s right!”
Hannibal’s eyes grew wide. “Oh goodness me,” he chimed. “It’s so obvious I didn’t see it. Time is the one thing most humans don’t give a second thought about. But it does affect everything, from the lowest creature and plant to the mountains and stars themselves. Nothing can escape it. These ancient peoples must have really thought a lot about time to come up with a riddle like that. And that answer unlocked the room?”
“It did,” Dan stated. “Once we entered the right answer, the door opened by itself with no help from us.”
“Why not just blow the door if it was that hazardous?” Harry asked.
“That idea had been entertained,” Dan explained, “however, the door of this room is made of that same weird metal this thing is made of. From our research of that metal, we found out that it is extremely resistant to explosive pressure, acid, cutting torches, etc…. In order to open that door with explosives, we would have had to put enough plastic explosive on it to level six city blocks. Needless to say, that would have damaged a tremendous area in there and still may not have opened the way.”
“Oh. I see,” Harry answered in realization.
“We tried all other means of getting it open though and nothing we had could get through,” Dan said. “Plus, anytime we tried to force the door, the guillotine blades would engage. To breech the door with tools just wasn’t feasible with those blades chopping every time we hit the blasted thing.”
“So the door was pressure sensitive too,” Hannibal surmised.
“Yes,” Dan answered. “And it didn’t take long for us to figure that out too. Fortunately, we didn’t have any fatalities after Franklin.”
“That’s good,” Hannibal replied.
“Why didn’t you use the portal?” Mary asked.
“That’s a very good question,” Hannibal declared. “Apparently, even though the portal has vast potential to take you anywhere you want, there are some places it can’t take you. One of them is into the depths of the Temple. For some strange reason, the portal is unable to make contact with anything within the Temple. We can go from there to here or most anywhere else, but to destinations within the Temple other than the portal chamber, it just won’t do it. It’s almost as if something is shielding the rest of the Temple. We can go to outside the Temple and the portal chamber only. Apparently, the rest of the Temple is off limits to the portal. Maybe the strange metal everything is made of is interfering. Who knows? I know of one other place that the portal won’t open for...Amacia. I have tried to make contact with the lost city but it just won’t do it. The closest I can get the portal to open is a small town about twenty miles from the mountain but to make contact with the great caverns that I suspect house the lost city, it just won’t do it just like it won’t do it for other areas of the Temple. Maybe it’s shielded or maybe those destinations just aren’t in the programming of the portal machinery. Like I said...who knows why it’s doing that.”
“Oh,” Mary replied. “I didn’t know that.”
“It’s okay,” Hannibal replied.
“Anyway,” Dan continued. “It wasn’t until just the other day that we figured out how to open the door. Once the door was opened, I sent in our little robot explorer Zippo to check out the room. Just as I suspected, the whole room was a deathtrap. A grid-defense system was in operation the moment the door was opened. The floor was checker boarded with pressure triggers. Also, there were sensors in the walls that faced each other at regular intervals. When a floor trigger was tripped, metal spikes two-inches in diameter instantly rose from the floor and dropped from the ceiling at five-inch intervals all over the room, impaling anything on the floor. If someone broke the contact between two of the sensors, a flame would shoot from both of the sensors, incinerating anything between them. These sensors were placed at two-foot intervals along the walls at about eighteen inches off the floor and at four feet. The room was perfectly round and the Relic sat in the center on a pedestal. Obviously, someone went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure no one would get this thing.”
“Obviously,” Hannibal agreed. “How did you get past the defensive system in there?”
“The traps were designed to kill anything the size of a man,” Dan informed. “Zippo is about the size of a small cat so we were able to maneuver in there with him and see what the traps were going to do.”
“Zippo…who’s Zippo?” Harry asked.
“He’s the little robot I spoke of a few moments ago,” Dan said. “With Zippo’s help, we found the switch that neutralized the traps. It took a good twelve hours to do so though. It was hidden in the pedestal the Relic was sitting on.”
“Was the pedestal bobby trapped as well?” Hannibal asked.
“Yes, it was. We figured out upon the close examination that the pedestal was rigged to explode when the Relic was removed. We found out about that while using Zippo to search for switch to disengage the defense mechanism. Once found, we used him to throw the switch and then we were able to get the Relic. That room has to be the king of booby traps because in all of our exploration, no other room ever had so many traps,” Dan explained. “Then to add insult to injury, we had to solve another puzzle in order to unlock it from the pedestal; however, it only took us six hours to solve that one.”
“They had it locked into position then,” Hannibal said, rubbing his chin with his fingers. “Was there any writing in the room?”
“No; not the first scribble. The room was completely barren of any type of writing,” Dan stated. “I thought that was very strange because of the level of writing on walls in other parts of the Temple. Whatever this thing is, it’s either very important, very dangerous, or both. We haven’t been able to make heads or tails of this strange writing that’s all over it.”
“Has there been any reference to this strange oddity in the Library?” Hannibal asked.
“Unfortunately, no at this point,” Dan answered. “We’ve barely started to dig into the Library; however, the supercomputer that you brought in to do the translations is running well. We’ve done about three percent of the Library so far. Being able to scan the plates into the computer really made our lives infinitely easier.”
“Good. Good. What have you found so far?” Hannibal asked.
“So far, the information we’re getting is sketchy and full of gaps,” Dan reported. “Like I said, we’re just getting started on the Library; however, from what I’ve seen so far, your thought that a complete history of man all the way back to the beginning may very well be the case, though it is a bit early for a conclusive decision on that. But there are some strange things that are beginning to come out of there.”
“Like what?” Hannibal asked.
“For one thing, some of the accounts that have been translated tell of alien involvement with the people back at the beginning. Then there were these little items which came out,” Dan said as he rummaged through his satchel again, pulling out the hologram generator and a little disk that resembled a mini CD disk. He pressed a button on the device and a disk emerged from it. Taking the disk from the device, he replaced it with the one from the satchel. After putting the disk from the device away, Dan keyed in a sequence on the device. The satchel disk loaded into the device and the device hummed slightly as it did before. As before, a light shown out of the device and became a holographic representation of a notebook. Dan sat the device on the table and then proceeded to use the hologram as a notebook. He flipped through the pages and stopped at one particular page. “Take a look at this,” he said.
Hannibal leaned forward to see what was written on the pages being shown. He intently read what was written, and then looked at Dan with astonishment. “So this is what you wanted to show me besides the Relic?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Dan replied, nodding. “Needless to say, I was shocked when that turned up.”
“No doubt,” Hannibal agreed. Selina remained oblivious to what was going on for she was still examining the Relic.
“What’s going on?” Harry asked; feeling left out. “What’s the deal?”
“Just look at this,” Hannibal instructed Harry referring to the holographic notebook.
Harry leaned forward to examine what was written. On the pages before him was writing in the language of the plates and below it, a translation. He read intently, trying to figure out what was the big deal was about. As he read, his complexion changed and he got pale. “My God…I can’t believe what I’m reading here. It’s, it’s...,” Harry stammered.
“Yes, it’s a fragment of an account of the fall of Amacia,” Hannibal crowed. “And not just that, it gives us an exact location and a description of the Emperor.” His face darkened slightly as he continued, “It’s just like we saw last night. My Lord, what a confirmation this is!”
“There’s more,” Dan interjected while turning the pages of the holographic notebook. “In some of the latest translations to come off the computer, we found out that the people of that time had dealings with aliens from not only our universe, but with entities from other dimensions. According to the books, some of these entities from the outside were malevolent and extremely dangerous. There were other entities from the outside as well that were benevolent, and apparently, the two sides were in a war with each other. It seems that, according to what we’ve seen so far, this planet seems to be the focal point of their fight. So far, the books have identified four separate alien species that they had contact with from this universe in addition to the contacts from outside of our universe. It seems that these beings from the outside are the ones that caused humanity the most trouble. From what I’ve seen so far, the Emperor made a pact with these malevolent entities and used them as enforcers to keep himself in power.”
“Did the book say who the aliens from our universe were?” Harry asked with a bit of concern in his voice.
“Yes,” Dan answered. “But we haven’t come across a description of who these alien species from our universe are so far. All we have are names: Draconian, Cythian, Alkadian, and Ruticulian; however, from what we know thus far, the Emperor had an agreement with two of the species out of which he supposedly received a greater portion of his technology: the Draconians and the Ruticulians. The details here are still very sketchy but that’s what we’ve uncovered thus far. It’s of my opinion that the machinery in the Temple, including the portal, is of alien origin. Though at the moment, I have no proof of it.”
“So you suspect that the machinery we found is, at the very least, technology that may be retro-engineered from some alien technology,” Hannibal suggested.
“Yes, I do. But like I said, it’s too early to say for sure,” Dan returned. “And that Relic, I definitely believe that about it. That piece is not like the rest of the machinery we’ve found. About the only thing that makes it similar to the machinery we’ve found is the metal it is composed of. Someone or something hid it there in the Temple to keep it from being used. For what, I have no idea.”
“I tend to agree with you,” Hannibal agreed. “From what I’ve seen, that thing is not indigenous of the technology we’ve found so far. The writing that’s on it is not the same as the rest of what we’ve found in the rest of the Temple. Like I said, it’s an enigma. It belongs somewhere else.”
“Gentlemen,” Selina suddenly said, breaking into the conversation.
“Yes, Selina? Do you have a theory?” Hannibal asked.
“I believe I do. It may not be right, but it is a theory,” Selina declared.