Legends of Amacia: Mysteries of Tiamat

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A couple of days later, Harry pulled up to Hannibal’s house in his gray 1990 Ford Thunderbird with Dennis. They looked around, seeing the place seemed strangely vacant like there hadn’t been anyone around for days. Hannibal’s Chevy Tahoe sat in the moderately tall grass beside the garage. Harry and Dennis slowly walked to the front door. Harry surveyed the yard and house intensely. “This is strange,” he murmured. “It looks like no one’s been here for days.” He stopped at the door and knocked. No answer. He knocked louder and longer again; still, no answer. “Let’s try the garage,” he told Dennis. They moved over to the door on the garage, and Harry banged on it loudly, shouting, “Hannibal! Are you in there?” He again did not get a reply. “Something’s not right,” he muttered. “He should be here.”

As he spoke, Hannibal came around the corner of the garage and waved. “Glad you could make it,” he called out amiably, walking up wearing jeans and a gray T-shirt. “We have a lot of work to do this afternoon. I just got the forklift this morning. It should be here in about half an hour.”

“Where were you?” Harry asked. “We banged on the doors and got no answer.”

“Oh, I was busy in the garden around back. I didn’t hear you until you hollered a minute ago,” Hannibal answered. “Would you like to see what’s going on?”

“Why not,” Harry said, nodding. “That’s why we’re here.”

“Good…follow me; we could use some help,” Hannibal ordered, leading them around the back of the house. The ground dropped away noticeably as they walked around the garage toward the back of the house. When they cleared the back corner of the garage, Harry saw a large terraced garden on the hill dropping away from the house towards the tree line two hundred yards away. It covering almost an acre filled with tomatoes, beans of all kind, potatoes, okra, peppers…both green and hot, sweet corn that had just started tasseling, squash, radishes, carrots, and many other vegetables and herbs. A dozen five-gallon buckets lay scattered over the acre garden, filled to the brim with vegetables. “We’ve been picking this morning. These fresh vegetables are going to the Temple with the supplies. Hey!” he shouted into the rows of trellises overgrown with pole beans. “Our help finally arrived!” The rows shook as someone walked toward the end where Hannibal, Harry, and Dennis waited.

Selina suddenly appeared out of the growth wearing a T-shirt and jeans, greeting them. “Selina!” Dennis exclaimed as his eyes lit up. He ran to her, giving her a big hug.

“It’s good to see you too, little one,” Selina purred, returning the hug. “Glad you’re here, Harry. We sure could use the help.”

“I can see that,” Harry chuckled. “But I didn’t expect to see you here, Selina.”

“Well, Hannibal called and said he need some help with the garden and the supplies,” Selina explained.

“I can see why. This is a huge garden, Hannibal. And it looks like it’s doing well too,” Harry returned. “Where do we start?”

“Actually, we’re almost done out here. There are just these last two rows of green beans to pick. We were just about to take a break. Why don’t you help us take the full buckets in?” Hannibal suggested.

“Sure. Dennis, grab those two buckets,” Harry said, pointing out two of the nearest buckets. Everyone grabbed buckets and Hannibal led them towards the back door. Two-thirds of the basement wall lay exposed because of the land falling away from the house towards the garden. In that wall, Harry noticed a large garage door. To the west of the garage door in the basement sat a fifteen-foot tall patio deck allowing entrance to the kitchen through double doors. The deck consisted of heavy treated white oak planks sitting on eight-inch square posts. The oak picket rail stood four feet tall, ringing the twenty foot wide deck and the stairs, which sat on the west end of the deck nestled next to the house. On that end of the house, the ground level sat only six feet below the deck, making only a short flight of stairs necessary. A couple of outdoor chairs sat on the deck facing the garden.

Hannibal marched up the stairs and opened the kitchen doors. “Bring them over here,” Hannibal ordered, leading them into the kitchen. He sat his buckets down on the floor in the middle of the kitchen. Selina, Harry, and Dennis deposited their buckets of vegetables with Hannibal’s buckets. Hannibal promptly went to the refrigerator and opened it, retrieving several cans of lemon-lime soda. “You all want some?” he offered as he passed out the drinks. They all took one and followed Hannibal into the living room. Hannibal plopped down on the sofa with Selina. Harry sat in one recliner and Dennis sat in another recliner. “Whew. That’s a lot like work,” Hannibal breathed after taking a swig from his drink. Selina nodded in agreement.

Harry then heard something echoing through the house, sounding like someone talking. “What’s that noise?” he asked.

“Oh. That’s my shortwave radio. I generally keep it on while I’m here. It makes this place a bit more tolerable. There’s a preacher on right now,” Hannibal explained.

“Just out of curiosity, is Selina going to help unload the trucks?” Harry asked.

Hannibal looked at him with an eyebrow slightly raised. “That would be something, wouldn’t it…explaining to the drivers why there’s a six-foot cat woman helping to unload the trucks. Indeed, that would be something, wouldn’t it,” Hannibal cackled humorously.

Selina broke out laughing. “It sure would,” she purred. “I’d almost like to see that.”

Hannibal’s face became serious, as he said, “No, I’m afraid not. She’ll need to stay out of sight until the trucks leave.”

Harry chuckled softly. “Just a thought,” he replied, drinking some of his soda. Dennis was not paying much attention to the conversation. He was drinking not just his soda, but also his surroundings. He looked around and took note of everything. Hannibal’s living room contained several bookcases filled with books and artifacts. Several pictures and paintings of mountain, jungle, and desert landscapes decorated the walls. A three-foot diameter copy of the Aztec Calendar Wheel hung in one spot next to the window with a copy of the Mayan Long Count Calendar next to it. The vivid colors of the Calendar Wheel and Long Count Calendar attracted Dennis’ attention.

“Hannibal, what’s that?” Dennis asked, pointing to the Calendar Wheel.

“That’s a replica of the real Aztec Calendar as represented on the Sun Stone, Dennis,” Hannibal stated. “Right next to it is the real Mayan Long Count Calendar. Both of them allegedly show when this present age is supposed to end.”

“What do you mean real calendars?” Harry asked. “Aren’t the ones shown to the public the real ones?” Almost as soon as he asked the questions, Harry realized the ancient Aztec and Maya calendars shared with the public were fakes. Hannibal smiled wryly, tapping his temple with his finger. “Oh shit…they’re fakes and these are copies of the real ones, right?” Harry queried.

“You catch on quickly, bud,” Hannibal crowed. “That’s exactly right. The calendars the masters of the universe allowed John Q. Public to see are sanitized versions of the real thing. The originals were so controversial that the scientific establish omitted certain critical points on the calendar to keep the rest of the world in the dark about our history as a species. The order to do so came directly from the top. The true Aztec and Mayan calendars are much more detailed, written in an encrypted form of their languages that reveals their true origin.”

“So end of the world date of December 21st 2012 was a piece of propaganda?” Harry asked.

“Bingo,” Hannibal answered, smiling broadly, “and Harry wins the Kewpie doll.”

“And that’s why when that day came and went with no earth-shattering event; the furor over the end of the world dying with it,” Harry surmised. “It was the wrong day.”

“That’s right,” Hannibal stated. “But there’s more to these Calendars than the news media told you…much more.”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked. “Explain.”

“The Calendars you see before you were not made by either the Maya or the Aztecs,” Hannibal explained. “Their origins lie much earlier than anyone wants to admit. Some say the Olmecs had a hand in creating it, but I’m not so sure about that either. I tend to believe it may even predate the Olmecs, who are supposed to be the root civilization in Mesoamerica.”

“What’s ‘Mesoamerica’?” Dennis asked.

“It’s all the civilizations that arose in Central America lumped together,” Hannibal explained. “Technically, Mesoamerican civilizations stretch from the Southern and Southwestern US through Mexico down to Columbia. Some legends and myths say that these civilizations were colonies of Atlantis, but there’s no way to know for sure.”

“Atlantis,” Dennis chimed. “Neat!”

“But what about the real calendars,” Harry asked. “Can you explain them?”

“Well, it seems that these peoples adopted the calendars,” Hannibal stated. “They wrote it down in their languages, but it appears that they all had the same ideas about time since the calendars are very similar. The calendars themselves are modeled on base 13 and 20 numerical systems. In fact, the Mayan calendar is a combination of three different calendars: one based on a two hundred sixty day cycle, which happens to coincide with the nine-month gestation period of human women and the planetary cycle of Venus in the sky. It’s used as a sacred calendar. The second one is based on the three hundred sixty-five day solar cycle and is used as a secular calendar. It’s as accurate as the atomic clocks we have down to four decimal places. These two calendars intermesh at the same time with each other and a third calendar known as the Long Count, which has a cycle of over five thousand years and supposedly reflects the total time from the beginning of creation of our present world.”

“Whoa,” Harry murmured. “That’s amazing. But if that’s the case and December 21st 2012 isn’t the real end of the world, then when is it going to happen? Do we just throw out the power elite’s propaganda version of the calendars?”

“No, we don’t throw out the propaganda,” Hannibal declared. “Part of the propaganda about the Calendars is that they were translated accurately. You must understand something before you can truly grasp the significance of the deception. The Mayan Codices is one of the most complicated languages ever devised, and the fact that the Spanish destroyed nearly everything the Maya wrote down didn’t help any either. Granted, some of the Codex has been deciphered, but a significant portion of it remains undecipherable. As a result, the Calendar has not been completely decoded; however, they did translate enough of it to become very concerned about what it would do if that information became general knowledge. It would mean the end of their plot to control humanity. Because of that, the masters of the universe purposely altered the version of the calendar to hide the truth about the end of the Calendar. The erroneous dates were fed to the news media to be propagated as accurate to keep the public in the dark. When their date of December 21st 2012 came and went without an earth-rending catastrophe, they successfully buried the truth about what really faces us in the near future. That’s why you do not believe anything coming out of the major media outlets of the world.”

“So the date of the end of the world is not right?” Dennis asked.

“Yes,” Hannibal stated. “As I mentioned earlier, the Calendar uses an encrypted version of the Codex. Only a few select priests who were given the responsibility of passing on the knowledge of the Ancients and the correct account of history knew how to decipher this amazing piece of ancient encryption. As I said earlier, I suspect the Calendar is much older than the Mayans and that they may have adopted it when they encountered it because of the history it held.”

“Wow,” Dennis chimed. “So do you know when the real day the Calendar says the world will end?”

“Not really,” Hannibal admitted. “Another thing you must understand is that the Calendar doesn’t say the world will end, it just says when the end of the age is going to occur. According to the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Hopi, and many other Mesoamerican peoples, history is cyclical. Humanity rises to great heights of civilization only to be demolished by some catastrophic event thought to have been instigated by the gods because of humanity’s wickedness. The event completely wipes out that civilization, leaving only a few humans left to start over. These cataclysms usually redefine the surface of the Earth by fire, water, wind, ice, or some combination of these elements. The ancient Maya, Aztec, and Olmec understood that our planet is a highly energetic and volatile planet that reshapes itself periodically on a global scale. They also know how the stars and other planets can trigger these cataclysms. It’s a wonder that our ancestors had such knowledge.”

“How many ages do the Maya say we’ve had?” Harry asked.

“The experts in the scientific hierarchy of world claim the Mayas believe we are living in the 4th Age or cycle of creation on the Long Count,” Hannibal declared. “They say the Hopi Indians of northern Arizona believe something similar. On the other hand, the Aztecs show in the Sun Stone depicted here that we’re living in the twilight of the 5th. Yet, the dates for the end of the 4th Age of the Maya and the 5th Age of the Aztec seem to coincide because they’re using the same base calendar system. But because of the incomplete nature of the decoding of the Mayan Calendar, we can only get an approximation for when this age will end and the next age will begin. From my own personal research and knowledge concerning this, I’ve concluded that the so-called experts are wrong in the number of Ages and where we are in their calendar.”

“So, according to your research, which Age are we living in?” Harry asked.

“I’ve verified these results with a dozen other respected archaeologists around the world,” Hannibal stated, “some of whom are on the payroll of the masters of the universe. The real deal is that there is no discrepancy between the Aztec and Mayan Long Count calendars. We’re now in the twilight of the 6th Age, preparing to go into the 7th Age or World as the ancients called it. The end of our present Age is very near and will redefine our world forever as the end of previous Ages did.”

“And when does the Calendar say this will happen?” Selina asked.

“New evidence and breakthroughs on breaking the encrypted Codices suggest that sometime within the next eighteen months we’ll see a celestial event that’ll end this age and herald in the next,” Hannibal said. “It’ll be a global event that’ll decimate much of the population of the planet and restructure the surface. But it will not be the end of the world, just a restructuring and starting over for those who survive the cataclysm. The exact date is still lost in the encryption. It’s something I really want to know, especially with what we’re doing now. I have this strange feeling that what I’m doing with Amacia is directly involved with what the Calendar is pointing to.”

“Do you think the key to the full deciphering of the Mayan Codex may be in Tiamat’s Library?” Harry asked.

Hannibal raised an eyebrow at the question. “You know, you might be right,” he replied. “It very well may be in there. I’m one of the few experts on the Mayan Codex and that language does seem to mimic what we’re seeing in the Library. We’ll have to keep an eye out for the key to the Codex encryption.” The sound of a semi-truck echoed through the house as the heavy truck came up the driveway.

“That must be the forklift. He’s early. Harry…let’s go out and unload it,” Hannibal ordered. “Selina, could you and Dennis go out to the garden and finish picking the beans?”

Selina nodded and said, “Sure. Come on Dennis and give me a hand.” Dennis jumped out of the chair and followed Selina out the back door.

“Come on, bud. Let’s do this,” Hannibal told Harry as he headed for the front door. They stepped out on the front porch to see a semi with a lowboy trailer and a large forklift on it parked in the driveway. The driver had just gotten out of the truck and was heading for the house. Hannibal and Harry met him in the yard.

“You’re early,” Hannibal said.

The driver extended his hand and shook Hannibal’s hand. “Guess I am. Where can I unload it?” he asked.

“Well, right there will be all right,” Hannibal answered. Then speaking to Harry, he said, “Why don’t you pull your car over by my truck there in the grass.” Harry nodded and immediately moved his car.

Within five minutes, the forklift sat in the driveway and the driver prepared to leave. “We’ll be back tomorrow about this time to get it. Is that going to suit you?” the driver asked.

“Sure will,” Hannibal returned confidently. “If we need it longer, I’ll call in the morning.”

The driver smiled and climbed into his truck, starting it up. A cloud of smoke boiled out of the exhaust pipes. The driver waved as he circled around in front of the house, driving away. Hannibal moved the forklift out into the grass so it would not be in the way of the delivery trucks. He walked back to Harry as he stood at the end of the sidewalk. “Why does this place look like you have not been here for weeks?” Harry asked, following Hannibal back into the house.

“Well, I just haven’t much time to keep the lawn up because of the other work I’ve been doing. Another reason is that I haven’t been here for over a week,” Hannibal explained as they stepped into the house. Selina and Dennis were sitting on the sofa, talking softly. Hannibal immediately noticed it and asked, “You finished?”

“Yes,” Selina replied. “I was nearly done when Harry and Dennis showed up. Dennis proved to be a great help in those last two rows; however, the vast majority of the beans on those rows need grow a little more. They aren’t quite big enough yet so we just left them. Remember, you planted them a little later than the others.”

“Right,” Hannibal replied, sitting down in the recliner. “I remember now. I did that so the beans would all come in at once. What do you think, a couple more days before they are ready?”

“Maybe as many as four days,” Selina answered as Harry plopped in the vacant recliner. “The beans are really small right now, but when they’re ready, it’s going to be a pile of them.”

“Good,” Hannibal chimed. “That gives us a little space to breathe and get some of the other things done.” Turning to Harry, he asked, “Would you like to see what we’ve gotten so far?”

“Sure,” Harry answered.

“Good…follow me,” Hannibal said, abruptly rising from his seat. Everyone rose and followed him down into the basement. Hannibal turned on the light and Harry looked around. The basement appeared much bigger than the house with rows of shelves filled with canned goods. The shelves lay set up in isles big enough to drive a forklift easily between them. A large garage door stood in the near end where the steps came down. In the far end sat a dozen chest freezers lined up in rows. The freezers were enormous: six feet wide by ten feet long by four feet high. Each had a set of moveable steps in front of them. Hannibal led them through the shelves to the freezers and opened the nearest one, revealing it completely filled with frozen vegetables.

Harry looked at the freezers and the shelves in astonishment. “How did you get the time to do all this?” he asked.

Hannibal smirked as he closed the freezer. “I have some very skillful and knowledgeable help that comes in from time to time,” he explained. “They picked and processed most of what you see here. Unfortunately, I lost most of that help about two weeks ago. I don’t know what happened. The last time I called them, they informed me that they would be unable to help me anymore. Apparently, they must have gotten some work or something is keeping them from helping out. It was strange. It was almost as if they were afraid to come over here. But anyway, the last few pickings, I’ve had Selina and some of the guys from the Temple help out. Most were glad to help just so they could get away from the Temple for a little while.”

Harry scratched his ear as he thought about Hannibal’s stockpile. “You know, this is an impressive stockpile of food,” Harry observed. “All of this came out of the garden?” Hannibal nodded. Harry whistled softly. “Is all of this going to the Temple?” he asked again.

Once again, Hannibal nodded. “I have to get this place cleaned out,” he announced. “The masters of the universe know I’m up to something. The mamba upstairs in the garage proved that to me, so I’m going to move my entire stockpile of food and all of my research materials to the Temple. It is the safest place on the planet for now. I can’t risk them finding any of this. If they find it, it’s hard to tell what evil they may do with it.”

“So we’re going to empty this place because of the establishment goons,” Harry surmised.

“Yes, the government monitors me continuously,” Hannibal declared. “That’s one of the reasons I don’t have a regular phone here or carry a standard cell phone. NSA collects and monitors everything said over the phones or internet to identify who the dissidents and malcontents are. The only phones they can’t track or monitor are the ones we found at the Temple. It’s not part of their network with an encryption so deep that it appears as background static that indecipherable.”

“Do you think they’ve been watching me?” Harry asked with a hint of apprehension on his voice.

“Most likely, yes,” Hannibal stated bluntly. “I’m sure they’ve been monitoring your family because of our friendship.”

“This isn’t good,” Harry admitted, “but not surprising. I suspected that all along. What do you do when you need to make calls, such as arranging for the supplies coming today?”

“That’s a very good question,” Hannibal replied. “For my regular business dealings, I channel all my phone calls go through my office at the University and don’t say anything that could call attention to me. So far, I’ve been able to thwart their efforts to find out what I’m doing. But that’s changed with their assassination attempt. That snake smelled like a tactic used by an old enemy of mine. I must be getting really close to something they want kept quiet.”

“What snake?” Dennis asked innocently.

“Someone put a poisonous snake in my garage the other night while I was at your house, Dennis,” Hannibal reported. “It was a black mamba. It’s very fast and deadly. They obviously hoped it would kill me, but I killed it first.”

Dennis’ eyes grew wide with surprise and fear. “Why would someone want to kill you with a snake, Hannibal?” he asked.

“You must understand, Dennis,” Hannibal said softly. “I have made many bitter enemies who would like nothing better than to see me dead. The snake was a way to accomplish that without it looking like a hit. It’s actually a standard tactic. Now that they’ve failed with the snake, I fear they may do something a bit more direct. That’s why I’m doing this. They’re coming for me and I can’t be here when they come.”

“I don’t understand,” Dennis murmured fearfully. “I don’t want you to die.”

“I’m not going to die,” Hannibal replied confidently. “I’m well aware of their tactics and know how to circumvent them. But I’m still in danger here, so today, after the supplies I ordered are delivered, I’m going to send for help from the Temple, and we’re going to move everything out of the house. This place is going to be vacated. I know they’re coming and when they get there, there can’t be as much as a DNA strand or fingerprint left. Our best defense is not to be here when they arrive. The Lord has allowed me this warning so I can get out of the way.”

Harry’s face fell slightly as he looked at Dennis, whose face reflected a mix of confusion, fear, and concern. Selina listened intently as well, knowing intimately the danger Hannibal described. “They’re fixing to intercept us to thwart our move on Amacia,” Hannibal stated. “I have received reliable intelligence on this from some well-positioned people within the government that are friendly to our cause. I hope and pray that they’re not found out.”

The severity of what Hannibal shared really began to sink in on Harry. “If that’s the case, then they’re going to move against my family too since they have been monitoring us, aren’t they?” Harry surmised.

Hannibal sighed deeply. “I’m afraid so,” he admitted. “We’re going to have to insure their safety before we go because the government will try to take them and use them against us.”

“When did you find this out?” Harry asked with growing apprehension.

“I found this out late last night from one of my people in the NSA and Defense Intelligence who have been monitoring everything, including what the Masters of the Universe have been planning for all of us. They’re coming and we can’t be here when they come. The schedule is going to have to be accelerated so we can stay ahead of them,” Hannibal said sternly. Dennis’ fear and concern grew, so he slid over close to Selina. She noticed his concern and put a comforting arm around him.

“My God…this is unbelievable!” Harry exclaimed. “This kind of evil I can’t even fathom. What’re we going to do?”

“You, Dennis, and Mary are coming to the Temple with me. They will be safe there,” Hannibal stated. “It’s the only way. All of our plans to let them stay here just got shot to shit.”

“The Temple,” Harry asked with great concern, “Are you sure that’s a good idea? From what you’ve told us, it’s a very dangerous place. And let’s not forget the vision. What about the demoniac hordes and Dezarcus…what about them? I’m not going to put Mary or Dennis in that kind of situation. I’m not going to put them in the belly of that beast!”

Hannibal saw Harry’s fear and concern in his comments. “The Temple is ours now,” Hannibal declared confidently. “Yes, it’s still a dangerous place, but it’s going to be a far less dangerous place than this in a week or less. As for the hordes and Dezarcus, don’t worry about them. I prayed all last night about this and the Lord has assured me that the Temple is the safest place for Mary and Dennis. In fact, do you remember the evil presence I said was over that place? Well, the longer we’ve been there and the farther we’ve explored, the less oppressive it has become. In fact, I was there yesterday helping Nathanael and Selina check out the new level to the Library. The atmosphere there is now almost pleasant. It still has a strange, somewhat alien feel to it but the malevolent aspect of it has all but dissipated where we’re doing most of the research. Apparently, the Lord has secured most of the Temple with His angels. If you don’t believe me, just wait and see. We’re going to take all this stuff to the Temple this afternoon and you can see for yourself.”

Harry’s face was still etched with worry as he looked at Dennis again. Dennis seemed to be eager and excited about the possibility of going to the Temple, but remained concerned about the turn of events. “You’re sure about that?” Harry asked Hannibal sharply.

“Absolutely,” Hannibal answered with complete confidence.

“The Temple is safe, Harry,” Selina chimed. “Trust Hannibal; the place is secure.”

“How long before they come?” Harry asked in a slightly defeated tone, rubbing the side of his face with his hand.

Hannibal leaned forward and looked Harry square in the face. “Within a week,” Hannibal reported. “I don’t know exactly when the raid is supposed to happen, but I do know that it will be within a week.”

“This is unbelievable. This thing has put my family in jeopardy. But in my heart I knew that this was a possibility,” Harry said with finality. “We’re going to have to disappear off the face of the Earth. And we’re going to have to do it quick.”

A sudden chill raced down Hannibal’s spine and his face fell. “You’d better go get Mary and any of the pictures you have of Selina and Nathanael,” he ordered urgently. Then to Dennis he asked, “Where’s the hologram projector I gave you?”

“Right here,” Dennis answered, digging into his pants pocket to retrieve the device. He held it out for Hannibal to see.

“Why did you bring it?” Hannibal asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I don’t know,” Dennis answered. “Something just told me to bring it along.”

“There are strange forces at work here we don’t understand,” Hannibal stated soberly. “Harry, go get Mary right now. We’ll sanitize your house after we get done here.”

Harry looked at Hannibal as if he were crazy. Then a violent icy chill ran down his spine and a feeling of deep dread sank down into the bottom of his heart. His face became very pale and anxious. “I think that’s a good idea,” he agreed. “I’d better go get her. There’s something going on here that just isn’t kosher. I felt it when I got up this morning but it got very bad when we got here. I didn’t say anything about it because I thought it was just something I ate last night. Can you watch Dennis?”

“Sure,” Hannibal replied. “Go get Mary and the pictures. And don’t be long.” At that, Harry dashed up the stairs and out the door to his car. He cranked it and raced away.

“What’s going on, Hannibal?” Dennis asked.

Hannibal moved over and sat down on his haunches in front of Dennis. “You, your mom, and dad are going to have to come with us to the Temple. There are some very bad people that are coming for us so we can’t be around when they show up,” he said gently.

“Are they the same guys who tried to kill you with the snake?” Dennis asked, his face drawn with fear.

“Yes,” Hannibal answered. “But don’t worry. I’m not going to let anything happen to you or your mom or dad. I just can’t let them use you as a tool to get to me and that’s what they’ll do. Besides, if you come with us, you won’t have to go that jail of a school anymore and put up with those bullies. And you’ll get to see and learn things you never dreamed of at the Temple.”

Dennis cracked a smile. “Are there kids like me at the Temple?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Hannibal replied. “I have whole families working with me at the Temple and a number of them have children, so you will not be alone there. I forget; how many children are there, Selina?”

“About a dozen or so, both boys and girls of all ages,” Selina reported, “and they have a grand time there. I’m sure you’ll fit in with them just fine.”

Dennis’ fear subsided at the news, but his face continued to reflect his concern. “Why are these people trying to hurt us?” he asked. “We’ve done nothing to them.”

“I wish I knew,” Hannibal stated. “But many of these guys are like the bullies you’ve dealt with in school. When they don’t get their way, they resort to violence; however, they aren’t very bright, which allows us to outthink them.” When Hannibal saw the continuing worry on Dennis’ face, he declared, “I’m not going to let them hurt you or your family, Dennis. You have my word on it. Let’s shake on it.” Hannibal held out his hand and Dennis shook it.

Selina looked at Dennis and purred, “We’d never let anything happen to you or your mom or dad. We’re family and we take care of each other.”

“Come on, let’s go back upstairs,” Hannibal ordered, leading Selina and Dennis back to the living room. Hannibal sat down in his recliner and Selina sat on the sofa with Dennis next to her. Dennis sat there, leaning on her side as he considered the ramifications of what was about to happen. Selina put her arm around him and stroked his hair gently. “I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Hannibal declared. “This thing has taken on a life of its own. It shouldn’t have come to this.”

“Seldom do such things turn out the way we want,” Selina said profoundly, stroking Dennis’ hair. “I learned that the day you rescued us from oblivion. We just have to deal with it the best we’re can and pray the Lord still has His hand on it.” She gazed at Dennis with the love of mother and purred, “You know, Hannibal. I’ve never had any children. Yet the Lord has provided me with a much bigger family than I ever had on Kaitia. Dennis here I look at more as a son rather than a friend. Mary is the sister I never had had even though I had a twin sister where I came from. I would die for them if it meant keeping them safe.”

“So would I, Selina,” Hannibal agreed, “So would I; they’re very special to me, just as you and Nathanael are. We’re family, as you’ve so eloquently put it, and I’d do anything to ensure their safety. That’s why I was going to give Harry’s family all that money while we were gone. But now it seems my plans have been changed by a higher power.”

Dennis listened intently as they spoke. “You love us that much?” he asked, looking up at Selina.

“Yes, I do,” Selina answered with a smile.

“So we’re going to stay at the Temple while you’re gone,” Dennis surmised, finally comprehending what had been discussed.

“Yes,” Hannibal answered. “Like I said earlier, you’re going to get to stay at the Temple and if you want, help with the work there. I’m sure you’ll learn more there in a week than in a whole year in that brainwashing factory they call school. At the Temple, you’ll actually be able to apply what you learn.”

“Really?” Dennis beamed. “I get to help at a real dig?” Hannibal smiled and nodded. “This is getting better and better!” Dennis exclaimed.

“You’ll need to mind your elders there, though. You can’t just go running off. The Temple can be hazardous and you can get lost,” Hannibal warned. “But if you just stay in the secure areas with the grown-ups, you’ll do fine.”

“Oh, I won’t run off,” Dennis reassured.

“Good,” Hannibal said. “Is anyone hungry?” Dennis and Selina answered yes. “Come on over here in the kitchen. Maybe we can find something to eat,” Hannibal said pleasantly. They arose and followed Hannibal into the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and asked, “Anyone like fried chicken because I have some here.” They again responded yes and he took out a paper bucket of fried chicken, dumped the cold fried chicken onto a flat cookie sheet, and turned the oven on. “It’ll be a few minutes while it heats up,” he said as he put the chicken into the oven. A few minutes later, he took the chicken out of the oven and sat it on the stove next to some plates, saying, “Help yourself; what do you want to drink?” They told him their preferences: Selina lemonade and Dennis a lemon-lime soda. He handed out the drinks and the three of them sat at the table eating lunch without much fanfare or talking. The preacher on the radio continued to echo through the house; the preacher preaching a hell-fire and brimstone sermon.
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