Through the Looking Glass
Hannibal retrieved the radio from the window ledge, turning it off, and then looked at the portal. “I’ve put this off far too long,” he murmured. “I should’ve done this a long time ago.” He then looked at the group, specifically at Mary and said with a little humor, “Are you ready to step into my world? Are you ready to step through the looking glass with me, Alice?” Mary abruptly choked with laughter, knowing the reference he was making.
“Come, my friends,” Nathanael said in an inviting tone as he smiled, showing his canines. He stood in front of the portal with his arm outstretched in a welcoming manner.
Hannibal led them toward the portal with Selina following up behind them. They stopped at the portal and Harry, Mary and Dennis gazed into it. Fear began to rise in their souls, which Hannibal noticed. “Could you go on through Nathanael?” he asked. “This may take a minute.”
“It won’t hurt you,” Nathanael declared, “watch.” He stuck his feline arm up to the elbow through the portal without going through it. “It’s like stepping between two rooms,” he said as he withdrew his arm. He then stepped through the portal. They looked through the portal and saw Nathanael waiting on the other side, waving for them to come.
“It’ll be all right. It won’t hurt you,” Selina purred in their ears.
Harry stood there with his family, staring at the portal. “This is really it. We’re going to travel half way around the world in an instant. Our old lives are gone. We can’t go back,” he whispered, realizing the depth of their predicament. Mary and Dennis looked to him for strength.
Hannibal saw their hesitation and fear. “Selina,” he said as he gently wrapped his arm around Harry and his family.
Selina immediately knew what he had in mind and did the same. “It’ll be all right,” she purred softly as she and Hannibal began to move them toward the portal. Harry put up little resistance and they moved into the portal. In an instant, they stood in the portal chamber at the Temple with Hannibal’s home shimmering beyond the portal. The portal chamber bustled with activity. Hannibal glanced at Selina and they smiled at each other. Harry and his family moved forward a few more steps into the vast chamber and turned around, looking at the portal. He saw the empty bedroom on the other side of the swirling ring. His mind reeled at the impossibility of what they had just done. They had move almost ten thousand miles in an instant. He turned and gazed at the portal chamber.
Hannibal and Selina stayed close to Harry and his family. Nathanael stood in front of them. “Welcome to the Temple of Tiamat, my friends, the oldest structure known to humanity,” Nathanael declared, extending his arm in a sweeping gesture, revealing the chamber.
The chamber was the size of a football stadium with a ceiling nearly two hundred feet high. The portal stood on a raised area nearly fifty feet across and four feet above the rest of the chamber. The floor consisted of a strange metal with the walls being lined with a strange combination of crystal and metal. Near the edge of the platform sat a large console that had a very detailed hologram of Hannibal’s house above it. A man stood behind the hologram at the console, operating the machine. He touched the console, the hologram disappeared, and the portal snapped shut. The man then walked away, going to help with the dispersal of the supplies. Harry looked across the platform where the portal had once stood and then up toward the ceiling. He noticed four giant crystals coming down from the ceiling in a square arrangement. He looked at the platform and saw another four colossal crystals rising from it around the perimeter of the platform. A ramp went down to the main level of the chamber from the platform. A soft, pleasant light lit the whole chamber with no shadows or dark corners anywhere. The light seemed to come from all directions. The air temperature was about seventy degrees.
Harry looked up at the crystals on the ceiling again. He noticed that they were held motionless about seventy feet up by an immense web-like superstructure of machinery made of the same metal the floor and walls were made of. The machinery and the floor of the platform had strange writing all over it. The crystals glowed in an unearthly manner and Harry noticed a low hum that seemed to come from every direction. Mary and Dennis looked around in stupefaction, watching the people begin to unpack the pallets. The workers knew exactly what they had to do. Hannibal watched Harry, Mary, and Dennis as they slowly moved around the platform, absorbing their surroundings. Selina stayed close to Mary as she staggered around.
“This is just one chamber,” Hannibal said, putting his hand on Harry’s shoulder, “and just one machine of many we’ve found. The machinery in here stretches for miles.” Harry stood dumbfounded at what lay before him.
Hannibal watched Dennis’ reaction as he took in his surroundings. His reaction went from fear to wonder and awe. Then excitement started to bubble up on his face. He began to move in larger circles, exploring the platform.
“This is unbelievable,” Harry finally declared. “I’ve never seen anything like this. This is absolutely astounding.”
Mary walked slowly back to where Harry and Hannibal stood, leaning on Selina’s arm. Her face was full of wonder. “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Mary said with absolute and utter wonder.
Hannibal looked around and saw Dennis moving toward the console. “Do you want to see how this thing works?” Hannibal asked. Harry and Mary nodded and Hannibal called out to Dennis “Hey Dennis; wait a second. Let me show you how the portal works.” He led them to the console.
The console spanned eight feet long by three feet wide by four feet high with top that pitched up at about thirty degrees. Strange glyphs covered the casing and the top consisted of a series of odd-looking buttons with glyphs on them. In the center sat a clear crystal the size of a grapefruit. Hannibal thought for a minute. “Let me see if I remember how this thing works,” he murmured. “Ahh…here we go.” He began to press the buttons in a specific order. Harry, Mary, Dennis, and Selina watched as he manipulated the console. “We have a quicker way of doing this but for now I’ll do it the old fashioned way,” Hannibal commented.
The crystal in the console began to glow and the machinery started to hum. Harry looked up at the giant crystals over the platform and notice they were beginning to glow brightly and resonate audibly. He then noticed the crystals around the perimeter of the platform behaving in the same way. A light suddenly flashed out of the crystal on the console and a hologram appeared of the whole planet. Hannibal found the US on the hologram and touched it. The hologram zoomed in on the country. He touched it two more times and had found Harry’s house. Once more, he touched the hologram and Harry’s living room appeared. Harry and his family watched with complete fascination as Hannibal manipulated the machinery as if he were the one who built it.
Hannibal looked intently at the hologram, and then said, “Now look up.” He touched a spot on the console as they looked up at the crystals. The machinery’s hum became slightly louder and the crystals all around the platform began to shine with an unearthly brilliance. In the middle of the platform, the very air began to glow and shimmer violently. Then in an instant, great beams of light shot like lightning from all the crystals and touched in the middle with a roar. A glowing sphere seven feet across appeared as the air crackled with raw power. Harry, Mary, and Dennis shielded their eyes from the brilliant flash. Within seconds, the sphere became a ring just as they had seen when Dan and Selina first came through in Harry’s living room. The beams of light dissipated and the crystals sang in resonance, glowing eerily. The energy ring around the portal crackled with energy discharges that seemed to flow around the portal. Harry, Hannibal, and Dennis walked over to the portal and looked through. Harry’s living room was bathed in a strange bluish-violet light. Mary slowly made her way to the portal with Selina’s help. Nathanael stood guard over the controls.
As they approached the portal, the crackling ring fascinated Dennis. He started to reach out to touch it when Hannibal quickly restrained him. “You shouldn’t touch the ring, Dennis,” he warned. “It’s very dangerous, not like the middle where we can walk through it.”
“Why?” Dennis asked.
“Watch and you’ll see why,” Hannibal stated, pulling a quarter from his pocket and tossing it into the ring of energy. It bounced off and fell to the floor partially melted. Harry and Mary gasped in horror. “The ring is pure energy,” Hannibal reported, “and is shielded with a very strong force field to prevent anything from coming into contact with it by accident. If you were to touch that force field, your hand would most end up like that quarter. That’s why we make the portal aperture oversized when using it: to prevent anything from accidentally hitting it.”
Dennis looked at the partially melted quarter on the floor with wide eyes. “Don’t worry,” he stated. “After seeing that, I’ll not touch it. I don’t want my hands burned off.”
“Yeah, thanks for the warning,” Harry said gratefully. “Everyone else knows about it too, don’t they?”
“They do,” Hannibal replied. “Are you ready to get your things now?”
“I guess so,” Harry answered.
“Nathanael, find four or five men to come with us so we can sanitize Harry’s house,” Hannibal ordered. Nathanael reached for his communicator and made some calls. Within thirty seconds, five men came to the platform and stood before Hannibal.
“Do we have another house to move?” a middle-aged man asked. He had closely cropped red hair that and piercing brown eyes.
“Yes, we do, Jerry. The goon squad ransacked Harry’s house and beat up Mary. We have to sanitize it like we did my place,” Hannibal stated.
Jerry looked at Mary and grimaced. “Man, they did a number on you, didn’t they?” he commented sympathetically.
Mary nodded and glanced at Hannibal suspiciously. “Everyone here knows what happened, Mary, and they’re just as concerned about it as I am,” Hannibal explained. “The men and women here are handpicked by me, and are my friends. We’re all family here.” As he spoke, Dan walked up on the platform, approaching them.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Jerry apologized. “I’m sorry if I came across wrong.”
Mary smiled slightly as she winced through another surge of pain, saying, “That’s all right.”
Upon seeing Mary’s face and condition, Dan rushed to her. “My god Mary; are you all right?” he asked with great concern.
“Yes, I’ll be all right,” Mary replied in a labored tone.
“If you need anything, just let me know,” Dan offered. “No matter how small it may be.”
Mary nodded as Hannibal addressed Dan, saying, “We must sanitize Harry’s house right away. Their attack on Mary was a warning.”
“Say no more,” Dan answered soberly. Then to Jerry and the others that had been called to the platform, Dan ordered, “You heard the man. Let’s clean up Harry’s house.” They charged through the portal on a mission.
“Thank you, Selina. I think I can manage now,” Mary stated.
“Okay, but I’ll be right here if you need me,” Selina replied, backing off a little. “Let’s go get your things.” At that, Selina started to lead Mary and Dennis through the portal into Harry’s ransacked house. Mary hesitated and Selina put her arm around Mary to reassure her. “Nothing’s going to happen while we’re here,” Selina said confidently.
Hannibal added to her reassurance. “That’s right. Nothing is going to happen because I’m going to get Nathanael to monitor the outside from here. He’ll let us know if anything comes. Right Nathanael?” he called out.
“That’s right. If I see anything, I’ll come running,” Nathanael replied from the console.
“Besides, you have us for protection. God help them if they decide they want a second round,” Hannibal declared, “for we’re more than capable of obliging them with a good scrap for what they did to you.”
“I’m going to be there with you, honey,” Harry assured Mary, holding her hand. “We’re not going to let anything happen.”
At that, Hannibal led them through the portal into Harry’s ransacked house. Dan, Jerry, and their crew were well under way surveying the damage. Harry looked around at his living room where he had found Mary tied up just a few hours previously. The recliners and sofa lay overturned and torn to shreds. The splintered coffee table sat lying up next to the wall. Papers lay scattered everywhere. He sighed deeply and stated, “There’s no point in taking anything that they broke.”
Mary stood there, shaking like a leaf. Seeing the terror in her eyes, Selina once again put her arms around Mary, purring for her. “It’ll be all right,” Selina purred. “You’re safe with us.”
“Why don’t you go to your room and get your things together, Dennis,” Hannibal suggested. “Bring anything you like.”
Dennis looked at Harry, who nodded in agreement. “Go get your things, Dennis,” Harry ordered, “if they didn’t destroy them.” Dennis raced upstairs to his bedroom. Harry then decided to look through the house again and disappeared down the hallway to his study.
Hannibal looked at Selina and Mary. He turned the sofa upright, making a place to sit, and then whispered into Selina’s ear. Selina promptly sat Mary down on the sofa. Hannibal squatted down in front of them, asking Mary, “What do you need to take? I’ll go get them.”
“That’s all right,” Mary answered after a few seconds. “I’ll get them. If they haven’t destroyed my kitchen, you can get the dishes out of there.”
Hannibal nodded. “Are you going to be all right?” he asked. “If it’s too much, you can go back to the Temple.”
Mary’s demeanor became more confident as she said, “No, I’ll be all right. I have to face this now. Otherwise it’ll haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Hannibal smiled. “You’re stronger than you realize,” he complimented. “Go get your things. Selina, help her gather her belongings.”
“Come on, sister. Let’s get your personal effects,” Selina purred as she helped Mary up from the sofa. “Where are they?”
“Upstairs,” Mary murmured. “They’re upstairs.” Selina helped Mary up the stairs, disappearing into the house.
Harry returned moments later from his search; his face flushed with fury. “They destroyed the whole house,” he growled angrily. “Why did they have to do so much damage? They could have looked and not destroyed everything they touched.”
“That may have been the point,” Hannibal replied. “Their destroying everything was a means of striking fear into you and Mary. It’s a tactic I’m well acquainted with from my darker days.”
Dan appeared with Jerry and their crew. “They demolished the whole house,” Dan informed. “They even tore holes in the walls and ripped out some of the wiring. It’s a wonder they didn’t burn the place.” Harry’s eyes flashed with building rage.
“Did you find anything that is salvageable?” Hannibal asked.
“There’s not much left,” Dan admitted, shaking his head sadly. “There are some dishes left and some cookware. The clothes you’ll be able to keep but all the furniture has been wrecked. We did find some of your food storage still intact. They did, however, find your gun safe.”
Harry ran his fingers through his hair, trying to suppress the rage. “Did they get in the gun safe?” he asked pointedly.
“I’m afraid so,” Dan said soberly. “They wrecked every weapon in there except this one.” Dan handed Harry a long barrel Smith and Wesson forty-four magnum, adding, “It seems that they somehow missed this one. The rest they totally destroyed. We found ammunition scattered everywhere. It looks like it’s still good so we might be able to salvage it.”
Harry’s eyes grew wide as he took the forty-four caliber revolver. “Thank you,” he whispered, trying to hide his emotions.
“I take this gun is important to you, isn’t it?” Dan surmised.
“It’s a family heirloom,” Harry murmured. “My grandfather gave it to me when I was twelve years old. Seeing it intact after they destroyed everything else is a miracle.”
“That it is,” Hannibal agreed. “Especially since it seems they went out of their way to destroy all of your weapons.”
“Indeed,” Harry answered as his anger ramped up again at the thought of the raid. “What about my radio equipment?”
Dan shook his head, reporting, “It’s a total loss. It looks like they went at it with a sledgehammer. I’m really sorry.”
Harry looked up at the ceiling and bellowed with rage. He went over to the kitchen door and pounded on the doorjamb with his fist. “Gone…it’s all gone!” he snarled, “a lifetime of work gone in an hour! I’ll kill every last one of them for this, even if I have to spend the rest of my life doing it!”
Hannibal gently took the revolver out of Harry’s hand as he put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. “Don’t talk like that, Harry,” Hannibal said softly. “Don’t stoop to their level. The Lord will make them pay for this outrage. That’s a promise.”
Dennis, Mary, and Selina suddenly came down the stairs with some concern. “We heard Harry,” Selina said with concern. “Is he all right?”
Mary went to Harry and embraced him. The rage began to melt away as he returned the embrace. “It’s all gone, Mary,” he whispered, “all of it.”
“I know, honey,” Mary whispered. “But we still have each other. Our stuff can be replaced. You and Dennis can’t.” Harry hugged her again.
“Take anything that is salvageable,” Hannibal ordered Dan, handing him Harry’s revolver. “And make sure this gets to his quarters.”
“Right,” Dan answered, taking the revolver and motioning to his crew. They immediately started moving what remained intact through the portal. Hannibal stepped over to Harry and said, “Go get your things. We mustn’t linger here too long.”
Harry’s anger subsided to a low simmer as he followed Selina, Mary, and Dennis back upstairs. Hannibal stood alone in the living room with the portal, resting his hands on his hips. He sighed deeply, gazing at the destruction. He stepped back through the portal and approached Nathanael at the control console.
Nathanael interpreted Hannibal’s expression. “It’s bad, isn’t it?” Nathanael surmised.
Hannibal shook his head. “It’s a total loss,” he stated. “They demolished the house and every stick of furniture in there obviously looking for information about me and maybe about that hacker incident Harry was part of two years ago. He told me what happened and I suspect they may have put him on their watch list because of it. Shit, they even tore out a lot of the wiring too. How’s the perimeter?”
“It’s okay for now,” Nathanael answered, glancing at the hologram that was set to monitor a perimeter around the house. “But I wouldn’t wait too long though. These men are devious and tricky. Who knows what they’re up to or when they’ll return?”
Hannibal patted Nathanael on the shoulder. “We won’t be long,” he stated. “There isn’t much left.”
Hannibal turned and walked back through the portal to Harry’s living room. Glancing over at the front door, he noticed it was hanging half open and promptly shut it the best he could before starting down the hallway to Harry’s study. The lights were broken with great holes were in the walls as if someone were looking for a stash in the walls. He got to the door of Harry’s study and found it smashed completely off its hinges. It lay on the floor in the doorway. The wreckage of a computer desk, monitor, and printer sat lying in the corner. Filing cabinets were battered like old tin cans and overturned with their contents scattered all over the floor. Pictures frames lay broken in the clutter along with the broken glass. More gaping holes in the walls greeted Hannibal. Overturned bookshelves with books ripped to shreds added to the clutter. A spider plant lay on the floor, trampled and uprooted near what was left of the computer desk. Then Hannibal noticed one little spot on the floor about the size of a notebook that had been cleaned off. He investigated the area, only to discover that the floor was hinged and Harry’s safe was underneath. He then remembered Harry giving Dan a bag of stuff he had retrieved from his car back at Hannibal’s house. Hannibal opened the safe, finding it empty. He closed it and gazed at the incredible mess on the floor as he sat on his haunches. Something suddenly caught his eye and he moved to investigate.
Hannibal pushed back the ripped papers and broken glass gently, finding a small gold locket with strange writing on it. He gingerly picked it up and opened it. Inside the locket lay a picture of Hannibal, Harry, Mary, and Dennis taken back when they first met. Hannibal gazed intensely at the picture and suddenly realized there was more to the picture than it appeared. He fumbled with the locket and the ring holding the picture opened, revealing a strange-looking gemstone behind the picture. “Harry, you devil,” he muttered under his breath. “You’ve been holding out on me.” He stood up and walked back to the living room with the locket in his hand. Harry, Mary, Selina, and Dennis stood there waiting.
“Got your things?” Hannibal asked.
“We just sent them through,” Harry replied in a depressed manner.
“I think you missed something important,” Hannibal said firmly, opening his hand revealing the locket and the gem.
Harry’s eyes got round with astonishment. “Where did you find that?” he asked.
“I found it in what was left of your study. Where did you find this?” Hannibal asked in genuine interest as he handed the locket and the gem to Harry.
“This gem has been in my family for generations. The story is my great, great grandfather found it while prospecting in Arizona. It was so unique that he decided to keep it and it has been handed down through the family from father to son ever since. It’s more of a tradition than anything else,” Harry informed.
“That’s an interesting stone. I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” Hannibal replied. “I take it that it very important to you.”
“Yes,” Harry answered. “It’s very special to me. My father gave it to me just before he passed away.”
Dan came through the portal and announced, “I think that’s everything.”
“Good,” Hannibal returned. “Let’s go back to the Temple. There’s little point in cleaning up or locking the place.” Harry nodded in agreement. He looked around at the house as if to say good-bye. Mary looked around in the same manner. Tears began to well up in her eyes as it really began to sink in that they weren’t coming back. “I know it’s hard leaving it behind,” Hannibal stated, knowing the emotions Harry felt from personal experience. “It was hard for me too but it’s something we have to do.”
Harry looked at him as Dan went back through the portal. “It still doesn’t make it any easier,” Harry murmured sullenly. He went to Mary and stood at her side with Dennis at his other side. Selina remained at Mary’s side silently, purring softly in an effort to keep Mary’s emotions level.
“Come. We have to go,” Hannibal said.
Just as they began to move, Dan reappeared through the portal with great agitation. “Hurry…someone’s coming. We have to get out of here!” he urged. Fear began to surge in Mary’s soul and she almost ran through the portal with Selina right beside her and Dennis following.
Hannibal sprinted to the window and peeked out. He saw four jet-black Chevy Suburbans with blacked out windows speeding toward the driveway. “They’re back to finish the job,” Harry hissed venomously. “I’ll see to this.”
Harry’s anger flashed visibly as he began to move very deliberately toward the door with the intention of meeting the invaders head on. Hannibal and Dan restrained him. “You can’t take them. There’s too many of them!” Hannibal pleaded as they dragged him into the portal. “Another time, Harry; they’ll reap what they’ve sown this day in spades. I promise you that! They’ll not get away with this,” Hannibal insisted as the portal snapped shut once they were at the Temple. Immediately, they went over to the console where Nathanael was monitoring the hologram of the exterior of the house.
“You made it out of there just in time,” Nathanael told them. “Look at what they’re doing.” Everyone watched the hologram as the black Suburbans pulled up and nearly twenty men got out with ski masks, automatic weapons and several black bags. They surrounded the house and stormed in. Nathanael zoomed in the hologram so they could see what was going on inside the house. The men stormed through the house, obviously searching for something. The masked men shouted in Russian as they soon realized that Harry had been there and things were missing, including Mary.
“Those are the guys that beat me up!” Mary shouted.
“Are you sure?” Hannibal asked bluntly.
“Absolutely…I remember their talking and it was exactly like that,” Mary answered confidently. She latched onto Harry as they watched the drama unfold. Harry’s face flushed with rage. The one in charge ordered something in Russian. The masked invaders opened their bags and pulled out strange-looking devices, which they planted all over the house. As soon as the devices were planted, they left and Nathanael pulled the hologram back again so everyone could see the house and the yard. The invaders piled into their trucks and drove away. As soon as they were out of sight of the house, it detonated in huge fireball that reduced it to flaming rubble in seconds. The concussion from the blast blew out the windows of Harry’s neighbors. Mary turned away and Dennis watched in shock. Harry stubbornly refused to turn away as the house burned to the ground in less than a minute. Selina put her arms around Mary to comfort her. Dennis latched on to Selina and his mother. Hannibal watched Harry closely and carefully put his hand on Harry’s shoulder.
Harry’s rage suddenly melted and tears began to well up in his eyes. “It’s all gone. They took everything,” Harry wept.
Hannibal sighed and hugged him. “No, they didn’t get everything,” he returned compassionately. “They didn’t get your family and they didn’t get you or us. They’ll reap. You mark my words. The Lord will make them to reap the whirlwind for what they’ve sowed here today.”
Harry looked at Hannibal and forced a small smile. “You’re right,” he agreed. “The Lord will make this right somehow.”
Hannibal motioned for Nathanael to shut the portal down and the hologram disappeared. “Come. We must get you settled in,” Hannibal said. Then to Dan, he asked, “How’s the setting up of the quarters coming along?”
“Oh. We’re getting along all right. Another couple of hours and we’ll have yours and Harry’s quarters ready,” Dan answered.
“Good…good,” Hannibal beamed. “In the meantime, would you like a tour?” he asked Harry.
Harry looked at Mary and Dennis. Their faces were weary but they seemed ready to participate. “I guess so,” Harry replied with a sighed.
“Then come this way.” Hannibal said, leading them down off the platform. Selina accompanied them.
“I’ll see if I can’t speed up the work on the quarters,” Nathanael said while following them.
“Good idea,” Hannibal answered as they reached an electric golf cart sitting near one of the exits with enough room to seat them all. “Climb aboard,” Hannibal invited. Nathanael disappeared amongst the workers and supplies as Harry, Mary, Dennis, and Selina climbed on the golf cart with Hannibal.
“How far underground are we anyway?” Mary asked.
“This chamber has at least three thousand feet of solid rock between us and the surface. We could take a direct nuclear strike and not feel it in here,” Hannibal informed as he drove the cart into the tunnel. The tunnel was covered with the same metal that was in the portal chamber. It spanned nearly twenty feet high by thirty feet wide, illuminated in the same strange manner as the portal chamber. Its end could not be seen. “We’re in the machine area that I told you about the other night. There are miles of tunnels such as these. We’re still finding machinery chambers like the portal chamber,” he reported. Harry and Dennis looked around in wonder. Mary did not pay much attention because of her pain. Selina stayed with her, letting her lean against her. She kept an arm around Mary, purring softly for her.
“Wow,” Harry chimed. “This tunnel is big as a four lane highway. How’d they do this?”
“I wish I knew,” Hannibal admitted. “There’s so much about this place that defies explanation. Whoever made this place had access to technology that is so far beyond us that it’s actually scary.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Harry agreed as Hannibal cast a wry smile at him.
They rode for nearly ten minutes, and then Hannibal turned the golf cart down another tunnel. Within three minutes, they arrived in another chamber in the machine area.
“This room is some sort of a healing chamber. We bring people here who have been injured or come down with something,” Hannibal explained while stopping the cart and getting off. “I’ve used it several times.” His passengers disembarked the cart and looked around at the strange chamber. It consisted of a metallic circular dome almost eighty feet across and forty feet high. In the center of the room sat a 24-faceted giant translucent crystal that stood nearly twenty feet high and seven feet in diameter rising out of the metal floor. The floor immediately around the crystal rose up four feet onto the crystal forming a smaller dome at the floor level around the crystal reaching out six feet beyond the crystal. Twenty-four metal tables shaped and recessed to hold a person surrounded the crystal with each table matching to a facet of the crystal and being connected to the dome around the crystal by a complex of machinery. The heads of the tables pointed to the center. A soft, velvety covering where patients would lie down covered each table. A control panel sat in plain sight on the small dome between the two tables closest to the exit. Several normal chairs sat unused around some of the tables. The room emanated a strange, calming atmosphere. The crystal glowed softly. It seemed to shimmer slightly and resonate with a low relaxing hum.
“Whoa, impressive; how does it work?” Harry asked.
“I don’t rightly know how it works. But I do know that it’s automatic. In order to get it to work, all you have to do is lie down on the table,” Hannibal explained, walking over to the nearest table. The crystal’s glow increased slightly as he approached. He climbed on the table saying, “You know…I’ve had a nagging headache all day today.”
“How long does it take?” Harry asked, walking over to examine the crystal machine and table closer.
As Hannibal laid down on the table, the crystal brightened significantly and hummed louder. A shaft of light suddenly shot from the crystal and illuminated Hannibal on the table from head to toe. The soft gentle light fluctuated almost musically. Harry watched in fascination as Hannibal lay there. “It depends on what’s wrong,” Hannibal explained. “Headaches usually take only a couple of minutes. More severe injuries like broken bones require several hours. Viral or bacterial infections take from fifteen minutes on up, depending on the severity of it. It can even be used to help remedy fatigue. It seems to me that this thing somehow uses electro-magnetic and sound frequency to heal. I don’t exactly know how it’s doing it but I do know it works.” He propping himself up on his elbow as the beam of light faded away and the crystal’s glow and hum quieted down. Hannibal jumped up off the table and said, “Yeah, that’s better.”
“You mean it cured your headache?” Harry asked with peaking interest.
“That it did. Why don’t you give it a shot?” Hannibal asked. “I know that you’re fatigued with all that’s happened today. It can help with that.” Harry looked at him with some uncertainty. “Go ahead. It’s not going to hurt you,” Hannibal assured.
Harry decided to trust Hannibal and laid down on the table. He found the table very comfortable and relaxing. His tense muscles immediately began to relax. Mary, Dennis, and Selina moved over to the tables and watched intently with great interest. Selina already knew the machine’s capabilities and stood there with a smile on her face. The crystal glowed again and the hum increased. Harry felt the table vibrate with the hum, which further relaxed him. The beam of light then shot out and covered him from head to toe. Harry laid there in astonishment as the light bathed him in its warm glow. The light seemed to vibrate at the same frequency the table did. His eyes grew wide as he first thought he heard beautiful music, and then felt it in his bones, rising from the table and the light. A gasp escaped his lips. He felt his strength returning as the light shown about him and the table resonated with the crystal. The fatigue vanished along with some old aches and pains that had been plaguing him for years. Trouble he’d been having with his eyes cleared up. Then the machine gave him a last dose of relaxation as the light faded, the crystal dimmed, and the hum subsided. He looked up at Hannibal as he sat up, throwing his feet over the side of the table.
“This is incredible. This thing actually works! I haven’t felt this good since I was a kid,” Harry said ecstatically, jumping off the table. “You should try it, Mary,” he insisted. “It’ll heal the damage those goons did to you. I know it.”
“All right; I’m willing to try just about anything to stop the pain,” Mary answered, gritting her teeth as another surge of pain raced through her side. Selina and Harry helped her lay on the table. Mary immediately felt the relaxing properties of the table. The crystal glowed again, this time much brighter than it had done before. The hum increased likewise and the table began to vibrate and resonate with the crystal. Mary suddenly smiled as the relaxation abruptly took her and she fell fast asleep in less than a minute. Harry watched in hope and fascination as the beam of light sprang from the crystal and enveloped her. Suddenly, a strange alien music echoed from the crystal.
“What is that unearthly music?” Harry asked Hannibal. “I thought I was imagining it when I was on the table, but now I can hear it audibly. It’s absolutely the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.”
Hannibal looked at Mary on the table, and then at Harry. “I don’t know what kind of music it is but you’re right. It’s very beautiful music,” Hannibal admitted. “The thing I’ve noticed with the injuries that we’ve brought here before is the music doesn’t audibly play unless there are some very serious injuries that need healing. It usually plays the music on a low frequency we can’t hear, but can feel in our bodies when using the machine. But when there’s a serious injury or infection to deal with, the machine will ramp up the volume so we can hear it. The only time I’ve actually heard this music audibly before is when we brought in one of my top explorers. He had been gravely injured in a fall where he had broken his back, legs, and partially crushed his skull. We managed to get him here before he died and that music started playing.” Hannibal looked at the beam of light and noticed it was pulsing, adding, “The light beam also pulsed in harmony with the music too, just like it’s doing now. He stayed on the machine for a week. It repaired and healed him completely. You would never know that he’d broken his back, legs or had his skull partially crushed.”
“Who was it?” Harry asked intently.
“It was Dan,” Hannibal answered soberly, looking Harry in the eye.
“Dan?” Harry breathed. “Incredible. He shows no sign of the injuries at all.” He suddenly began to piece things together. “My God…they meant killed her! That’s why this thing is doing what it is. The Lord kept Mary alive long enough for us to get her here.” Harry shook his head in disbelief, adding, “I had no idea how badly they beat her.”
Hannibal put his hand on Harry’s shoulder as Harry looked at Mary on the table being healed by a machine constructed thousands of years in the past. He looked closely and began to notice that the swelling on her face was almost gone and the bruising was beginning to fade slightly. “It’s working!” Harry declared.
Hannibal gazed intently at Mary and saw the subtle changes. “Yes, it is,” Hannibal agreed. “I don’t believe her injuries are nearly as bad as Dan’s were. From what I see here, it may be done in about an hour or so.” Hannibal retrieved some of the chairs sitting around and brought them over to where everyone was gathered. “Have a seat,” he offered as he sat down in one. Selina brought a couple more chairs over and sat in one. Dennis sat in another as Harry sat in one that Hannibal offered creating a perimeter around the table Mary was lying on. The strange heavenly music continued to echo softly through the chamber while the resonate hum added to the strangeness of the place. The soft beam of light pulsed melodically as they watched.
“I see all this metal that everything is made of. Is this the same metal that the books in the library are made of?” Harry asked.
“No, it isn’t,” Hannibal replied. “It’s similar in molecular structure to the pages of the books but it isn’t the same. Most of the machine areas that we’ve explored so far are made of this metal. We have found some special rooms though that is made of the same metal as those in the books. They, however, weren’t part of the main complex of machinery, but part of a specialized machine area that we’re still studying.”
Harry leaned back and pondered Hannibal’s explanations as he watched his precious wife lay on the strange table while the ancient machine did its job flawlessly. “You know, this is a very soothing place. I’m completely at ease,” Harry observed. Dennis sat close to Selina, latching onto her hand while he watched the strange crystal shimmer and seem to dance as it resonated. It fascinated him.
“Yes, this place is very soothing,” Hannibal agreed. “If I find that I need to calm down when I’m here, this is where I come.”
“This thing is capable of healing more than one at a time, isn’t it?” Harry observed again. “I see these other tables around the crystal machine.”
“Apparently,” Hannibal replied. “Shall I demonstrate?” Then to Dennis he said, “Do you want to try it? It’ll make you feel good.”
Dennis looked hesitantly at Harry and he nodded. He then looked at Selina with the question on his face: will it hurt?
Selina squeezed his hand, smiling. “This machine will not hurt you,” she declared, interpreting Dennis’ look. “It’s incapable of hurting you. It’s a healing machine.” Dennis coughed a bit then submitted to the table. Hannibal and Selina helped him on the table right next to his mother. As he lay down, the recess in the table seemed to adjust itself to Dennis’ stature. He immediately felt the relaxing properties of the table. The softness of the table impressed him, and then the table began to resonate with the crystal, which further relaxed him. He liked it and smiled. Drowsiness suddenly took him and he fell asleep nearly as fast as Mary as another beam of soft, gently light emerged from the crystal and surrounded him with its warm, diffuse glow. Harry watched intensely as his little boy slept on the table.
“The crystal seems to know exactly what each patient needs. Apparently, Dennis needs a nap,” Hannibal informed. “How it knows what each patient needs is the mystery. The machine almost acts as if it were alive.” They shifted their chair so they could watch both Mary and Dennis as they sat down. Harry watched the crystal’s reaction to Dennis and he scratched his head.
“You know, Dennis had a really bad cold just a couple weeks ago,” Harry informed. “It may have been brought on by the stress of school. He had just gotten over it when you came over last Monday.”
“If there’s anything that’s wrong with you medically short of being dead when you get on the table, this machine can remedy it,” Hannibal stated. “It’s a machine that’ll make the medical establishment as we know it obsolete. Imagine what we could do for humanity with just this piece of technology. No one would ever have to go to the doctor again.”
“That’s so true,” Harry agreed. “But I seriously doubt the powers that be would allow such a technology to be shared with the masses. They are trying to kill six and a half billion of us because they can’t control us, you know.”
“You don’t need to tell me that,” Hannibal answered soberly. “I’m fully aware of their planned genocide of most of humanity. You forget; I was once one of them and had a hand in planning the atrocities they want to commit on innocent people who are no threat to them. Why do you think they’re so hot to kill me? They know I’m on to something that could end their plans of world domination.”
“How can these people be so wretchedly evil?” Harry asked. “I just don’t understand it.”
“There’s not much to understand,” Hannibal replied. “These people have given themselves over to the Dark Powers to such an extent that I honestly believe they cannot be classified as human anymore. But fear not; the light of the Lord and His power is omnipotent. They’re doomed to failure, just as Lucifer was doomed to fail when he rose against the Almighty. There’s just no way they can blindside the Lord, so don’t give it another thought. It’ll just give you a headache.”
“I guess I’ll have to,” Harry stated glumly.
“Don’t let it get to you, Harry,” Selina chimed. “You have the light of the Lord in you. Don’t let the minions of the Dark Powers get under your skin. You, Mary, and Dennis are alive despite their evil mechanizations. The Lord will make them may for their evil in spades.”
Harry smiled at Selina. “You’re right, Selina. Thank you,” he replied.
“You’re welcome, my friend,” Selina purred.
After about ten minutes, the beam on Dennis faded. He, however, remained fast asleep.
Harry thought about waking him, but Hannibal restrained him. “Let him sleep,” Hannibal ordered. “He’s had a lot to deal with today. He needs the rest. Let him sleep at least until the machine is done with Mary.” Therefore, Harry let Dennis sleep. The crystal continued to heal Mary’s injuries as they talked softly about details of what Hannibal had already found in the machine area. They talked for an hour and a half, keeping constant watch over Mary and Dennis as the mysterious machine continued to do its miraculous healing work. Harry became wrapped up in the conversation and only occasionally glanced at Mary while they talked. Suddenly, the strange music ceased and the beam stopped pulsing. “It’s almost done,” Hannibal informed.
Their attention turned toward Mary as the beam of light slowly dimmed and faded away. The crystal dimmed and glowed softly as the resonant hum faded away. Everyone rose and gathered around Mary. She lay there still sound asleep. Hannibal noticed that her breathing was no longer labored, but normal. Harry gazed upon is wife in utter astonishment and joy. All of her wounds were healed: the beaten and bruised face had no evidence that she had ever been beaten. In fact, her face actually had a healthy glow he hadn’t seen in years that seemed to enhance her beauty. He reached out and gently touched her hand as Hannibal and Selina looked at each other with smiles on their faces. Harry leaned over and gently kissed his wife on the lips. Tears of joy welled up in his eyes as Mary opened her eyes. She yawned and reached up to touch the side of Harry’s face.
“My Prince Charming has awakened me,” Mary whispered with complete love for Harry. He immediately scooped her up and embraced her as they sat on the table. She wrapped her arms around him and responded, “I’m all right.”
Harry looked her in the face with tears streaming down his face. “I know,” he replied. “I’m so happy that I didn’t lose you.”
Hannibal nodded at Selina, motioning for her to awaken Dennis. Harry helped Mary to swing her legs over the edge of the table. Mary’s eyes then fell upon Hannibal, who stood back a few steps from the table with a broad smile on his face. “I’m glad that we were able to help you,” he said happily. She got up from the table and when her feet hit the floor, her legs buckled. Harry caught her instantly, sitting her back on the table. She looked at Hannibal with a puzzled look. “Don’t worry,” Hannibal assured her. “Your legs will carry you in a few minutes. It’s one of the after-effects of the machine. When the machine has to heal serious injuries, it puts every part of you into something like a deep slumber. Simply put, your legs just haven’t awakened yet.”
She looked at him oddly, and then understanding came to her. “I get it,” she replied. “My legs feel like they’ve gone to sleep. They’re starting to tingle now. Where’s Dennis?”
Hannibal stepped aside so Mary could see the table behind him. Selina was leaning over Dennis, gently shaking him as he lay on his side. “Wake up,” Selina purred. “Wake up, little one.” Dennis slowly began to move, shifting his position. He turned his head and looked up at Selina, his vision blurry. Slowly his vision cleared and he saw Selina clearly as he yawned. A smile crossed his lips and Dennis reached up with his arms to give Selina a hug. She helped him sit up and turned him, facing his mother. “Someone wants to see you,” Selina purred, looking over at Mary.
Dennis looked over at his mother and his expression lit up. “Mom…you’re all right!” he exclaimed, literally leaping off the table and running to her, giving her a big hug. Mary smiled and embraced him, saying, “Yes, I’m all right now, thanks to Hannibal.”
“Don’t thank me,” Hannibal replied, blushing slightly. “Thank the Lord because it was He that kept you alive until we could get you here. Also, the Lord led us to discover this amazing place to begin with, so let’s give Him the glory. He’s the one that deserves it.”
“Help me up,” Mary ordered Harry. She slid off the table and Harry helped her stand. She slowly started to move toward Hannibal. Strength returned to her legs as she reached Hannibal. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. “I thank the Lord every day that we have you as such a dear friend. Thank you,” she said with extreme gratitude.
“The Lord is truly wondrous. You’re very welcome,” Hannibal answered happily, returning the hug. “Come, there are many more wonders to see.” Hannibal turned and headed for the golf cart. Dennis followed close behind and Harry and Selina flanked Mary as she slowly made her way to the golf cart. By time she reached the cart, full strength had returned to her legs. They climbed aboard and Hannibal drove them away from the healing chamber. “We have found several of these healing chambers around the machine area. It’s almost like they’re first aid stations,” he reported.
“How many of them have you found?” Harry asked.
“At least seven so far,” Hannibal answered. Harry thought for a moment about the fact that six more of those chambers existed.
“Do you have anything to eat here? I’m starving,” Mary asked.
“Yes, let’s go get something to eat. I’m a little hungry too,” Hannibal answered as they reached the junction in the tunnels. He turned right and headed down the tunnel that accessed the portal chamber, going away from it. Hannibal drove for five minutes and took three more turns at which time they entered another large chamber in the machine area. The rectangular chamber spanned two hundred feet long by seventy-five feet wide by forty feet high. Six golf carts sat parked near the entrance. Several rows of tables like those that one would see in a cafeteria lined the near end of the huge chamber with people sitting at them, eating. The far end lay vacant. Along the right hand wall appeared to be a kitchen set up with stoves and refrigerators and counters. Cooks were in the kitchen, preparing food. The counter, spanning forty feet, had a modest amount of prepared food awaiting the diners in a buffet style setup.
“We managed to tap into the power that runs the machinery and adapt it to our equipment,” Hannibal informed them as he stopped the golf cart by the entrance with the other carts. “An unlimited amount of power surges through this entire complex. We found places where we could tap that power to run our equipment. This happened to be one of the places so we set up our cafeteria here. Mmmm…it smells like they’ve already started using the food supplies I sent today.” They walked towards the counter where the food sat. Several of the people at the tables waved, shouting greetings to Hannibal.
Hannibal returned their greetings as he, Harry, Mary, and Dennis reached the counter to be greeted by roasted deer, roast beef, tuna and tilapia steaks, all manner of green beans and peas, potatoes…mashed and baked, gravy, macaroni salads, squash, corn, and bread. A stack of plates and baskets of silverware sat next to an ice-maker that sat on the end of the counter with stacks of cups next to it. Beside them were several ten-gallon thermoses with labels: water, tea, lemonade, and milk. Beside that sat a cooler with sodas of every kind packed in ice. “Help yourselves to anything you want. This is your home now,” Hannibal stated as he reached for a plate and proceeded to put some deer, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and corn on his plate. The others lined up and helped themselves.
As Hannibal went to get a drink, the head cook came out of the kitchen and spoke to him. “Hey Hannibal…nice to see you again,” the cook chimed pleasantly. “This new batch of food supplies is much more appetizing than what we’ve been having. Thanks for getting it.”
“It was my pleasure, Cynthia. It looks like you were able to make some real dishes with it,” Hannibal said, grinning as he filled a cup with ice and lemonade. “I know those MRE’s weren’t cutting the mustard,” he added.
“That sure is the truth,” Cynthia agreed. “I’ll see you later.” Hannibal walked to one of the vacant tables. Cynthia smiled at Harry and his family as they filed past her and said, “Enjoy.” She turned, going back into the kitchen. Harry, Mary, Dennis, and Selina retrieved what they wanted from the counter and joined Hannibal at the table. Harry and his family sat down opposite of Hannibal and Selina took a seat beside him. As they ate, those who were already in the cafeteria filtered over to Hannibal’s table as they were going out, introducing themselves to Harry and his family, telling them how glad they were to see that Mary was all right. This went on for about ten minutes. After they’d all left going back to their work, those sitting at Hannibal’s table were alone. The noise of banging pots came from the kitchen as they continued to eat. Mary was ravenous. She ate as if she had not eaten in a month.
“It’s good to see that your appetite is strong. The machine tends to do that to patients who were seriously injured. It’s a good sign,” Hannibal stated. The noise from the kitchen subsided and classical music began to softly echo through the cafeteria. Everyone noticed it. “Cynthia likes Brahms,” Hannibal explained.
“Have you found the source of the power you’re using here?” Harry asked as he finished eating.
“No,” Hannibal replied as he finished what he had on his plate. “Though, I suspect that it may be geothermal in origin. Otherwise how could it have still been generating power after such a long time?”
“Geothermal?” Harry questioned with a raised eyebrow. “That’s an interesting theory.”
“You mean you think this place is run by lava?” Dennis asked.
“Yes, that’s what we suspect,” Hannibal replied, smiling at Dennis. “But we haven’t found the source of the power generation yet. It may be something completely different from what I think. We won’t know for sure until we find it.”
“Is there some kind of master control room to this place?” Harry asked after finishing off his drink.
“Not that we’ve found yet,” Hannibal replied. “But we have found some control rooms that apparently control various sectors of the machinery area. In fact, the control room for this area we’re in now, including the portal chamber, is just down the tunnel about six hundred yards that way,” he said, pointing toward the far end of the chamber they were in.
“Where’s the Library?” Mary asked.
Hannibal pointed out the way they had come in. “It’s about a mile from here that way,” he reported. “I’ll take you there after a while. First, I’ll show you where we’ll be living for a while.”
Mary nodded. “Where do we put the dishes?” she asked.
Hannibal pointed to a large cart near the end of the counter. “You can put them there if you want. Though it’s not usually necessary,” he answered. “The cafeteria crew usually cleans up for us.”
“Oh, it’s all right,” Mary returned as she began to gather up the dishes. “I just as well help out since we’re going to be here a while.”
“I’ll help you,” Selina purred as she started gathering dishes too, seeing everyone had finished. They carried the dishes over to the cart and sat them down.
As Mary and Selina returned to the table, a golf cart emerged from the tunnel with Nathanael at the wheel. He stopped the cart and walked over to the table, sitting down next to Hannibal. “I have some bad news,” Nathanael said softly.
“What is it?” Hannibal replied with a sigh as he slumped back into his chair.
“It’s not about you. It’s about Harry,” Nathanael answered. He then looked Harry square in the face and declared, “They’ve turned you into a terrorist, Harry.”
“A terrorist…how, when?” Harry asked with astonishment. “I was one of the top cops in the country with a spotless record. How were they able to do that?”
“You’re no longer a cop. Everything about your old life as a cop, including your family is gone,” Nathanael informed Harry. “On a whim after what happened today at your house, I decided to check the records and profiles the government had on you.”
“You hacked into their system, didn’t you?” Hannibal asked with a smirk on his face.
Nathanael smiled wickedly, showing his canines fully. “That I did,” he crowed. “Human computer networks are incredibly primitive by Kaitian standards so hacking in was easy for me. I figured one bad turn deserves another. Anyway, I checked your files and found everything about your life, including your job had been erased or changed. According to the records now, you’re a member of a terrorist cell of which you are second in command of. Your job as a cop was considered a cover. You’re now a renegade, white supremacist militia leader bent on the overthrow of the federal government and the New World Order. You have connections to nearly every terrorist agency on the planet that has reason to hate the US. Your wife and son are considered active participants with you. You’re now officially number three on the list of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, right behind Hannibal. Osama Bin Laden, whom they erroneously claimed was responsible for the 9/11 attack in New York several years ago, was four places below Hannibal until they neutralized him a few months ago. They seized all of your assets. It seems that we spirited you away just in time.”
Harry’s face began to flush with anger as he pounded on the table with his fist, cursing, “Those lousy little shits…they made sure that I couldn’t go back!” Mary sat back in her chair with a blank look on her face. Dennis tried to comprehend what Nathanael had said, but was found it hard to do so.
“They sure did cover their bases, didn’t they?” Hannibal growled. “How are my holdings so far?”
“They’re untouched at the moment,” Nathanael stated. “We’re going to have to move quickly to secure the rest of your research and bank accounts.”
“Why’d they go to that much trouble? I’m their target. Why go to that extent to destroy Harry?” Hannibal mused. “I would’ve thought they would’ve tried that on me before Harry.”
“I suspect they hit Harry and his family in an effort to draw you out into the open,” Nathanael stated. “But things didn’t go the way they planned. Why they didn’t go after you first remains a mystery.”
Harry sat there, fuming, when a thought came into his mind about what Hannibal had said and he voiced it. “They’re still scared of you, Hannibal. They must still believe that you have your occult powers and are afraid of violent retribution from you,” he stated. “Also, you’re an extremely wealthy man because of your past and what you do now. Ten billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at.”
Hannibal rubbed the side of his face. “You know, Harry. You may be right about that,” he admitted. “But as soon as they realize that I’m not the master wizard I used to be, they’ll act like they did on you.” His face suddenly hardened as his resolve galvanized. “We have to deal with this now before they find out,” he said sternly. At that, Hannibal rose from the table and everyone followed his lead. “How are the living quarters now?” he asked Nathanael.
“Yours and Harry’s quarters are finished,” Nathanael answered. “The rest of the quarters will be done in a little while.”
“Good,” Hannibal returned. “Can you take Harry and his family and get them settled in? Then come to the portal chamber. We have much to do. I have to get to the satellite uplink and make some changes in my financial accounts.”
“Sure,” Nathanael answered as they started moving toward the golf carts.
Hannibal climbed a golf cart and said to Harry, “After you’re settled in, you can come with us.”
Harry saw the stout resolve in Hannibal’s eyes and face. “Okay,” Harry replied. At that, Hannibal sped across the cafeteria heading toward the far end. Harry, Mary, Dennis, and Selina climbed aboard the golf cart with Nathanael and started into the tunnel on the near end of the cafeteria. “This is bad, isn’t it?” Harry asked Nathanael.
“Yes, it is. I figured they would just erase your existence by having the record say that you and your family were killed. This move of them turning you into a terrorist is unexpected. It would have been far better had they just killed you in the records because then they wouldn’t be looking for you like this,” Nathanael answered as he reached a junction in the tunnels and turned right.
“This is unbelievable,” Mary said softly, still trying to grasp what Nathanael had said. “It’s like something out of a movie or something.”
As Nathanael drove, he said, “Well, it looks like we’ve got a real winner if this were a movie. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Do you or Mary have any extended family we need to be aware of?”
“No,” Harry stated. “My parents died fifteen years ago and my two younger brothers were career military and died in the US’s War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan recently. Neither of them had families of their own, and didn’t have much to do with me. I just wasn’t military enough for them. As for my older sister, I don’t know what happened to her. Mom and Dad told me she disappeared without a trace driving home from the store one night while I was in Vietnam. They searched for years, never giving up hope that they would find her. No one ever saw her again. Mom and Dad went to their graves without knowing what happened to my sister. My brothers gave up hope and stopped looking after mom and dad passed on, going on with their lives. I kept looking, hoping against hope that at least her body would show up. Several years ago, I was forced to give up the search for her in order to keep my job as a cop. Her file was relegated to cold case file for missing persons. It’s like someone or something snatched her off the face of the Earth.” He sighed deeply. “At times I still wonder what ever happened to her,” he added glumly.
“What was her name?” Nathanael asked.
“Zoë,” Harry answered softly.
“What a beautiful name,” Selina chimed. “Were you and Zoë close?”
“Yes,” Harry admitted. “We were very close…much closer than I was to my younger brothers, who constantly tried to get me and Zoë into trouble by doing something wrong and blaming it on us. Still, I loved my brothers despite their ill treatment of me and Zoë.” A sigh escaped his lips. “God I miss her,” Harry murmured as Mary latched onto his arm.
“I’m sure you do,” Nathanael stated as he made a left turn after driving a hundred yards from the cafeteria. “Do you have a picture of her?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied. “It’s in our family album. I’m just glad it didn’t get destroyed when those bastards torched our house.”
“I’d like to see it when you have a chance to show it to me,” Nathanael requested.
“Sure,” Harry replied.
“What about you, Mary?” Nathanael queried as they approached another tunnel intersection. “Do you have any relatives you’re worried about?”
“No,” Mary answered bluntly. “I was an only child and my parents died five years ago within months of each other. As for my extended kin, they ostracized mom and dad for their beliefs. Let the government have them.”
“That’s cold, Mary,” Selina commented. “I didn’t think I’d hear something like that from you.”
“If you knew what my extended kin were like, you would,” Mary stated icily. “They’re a bunch of greedy, lying, conniving hypocrites that used Christianity as a way to enhance their social status. They never believed in Jesus the way we did. It was always about money and power with them. They had no qualms about cheating people out of their money and property whenever possible. Some of them even became Freemasons to enhance their political and financial status. When mom and dad denounced them for being hypocrites, they blacklisted us and we were forced to move to Virginia from Washington State just to get away from their meddling influences. It was the best move my parents ever made. By getting away from our family, we could live in peace. Even better, it was in Virginia that I met Harry and we had Dennis.”
Dennis looked at his mother with surprise. He’d never heard her talk like that about her extended family before. She saw the worried look on Dennis’ face and put her arm around him, smiling warmly. Her smile caused Dennis’ worry to dissipate somewhat.
“Oh,” Selina replied. “I see. They cut your family off because you wouldn’t lie and cheat the way they did.”
“That’s right,” Mary agreed. “I don’t like to talk like that about my family, but I’m not going to lie about it either. They literally ran us out of Washington State when I was a little girl, so let the government do what they want with them. I won’t shed a tear for them.”
“In that case, neither will we,” Nathanael stated, making a right turn at the tunnel intersection.
“Why’d you ask us about our extended family?” Harry asked.
“I asked because I didn’t want them to become victims in this twisted sadistic game the government is playing with Hannibal,” Nathanael stated. “I intended on making sure they were safe from the US government’s slimy claws. But from what I’ve heard, it’s really a moot point. Most of your family, Harry, has passed away and Mary’s kin don’t deserve such mercy from what she says.”
“Oh,” Harry replied. “I see. Thanks for asking about them.”
“You’re welcome,” Nathanael answered pleasantly. “The only one I’m inclined to look for is your sister, Zoë. At the very least, maybe we can determine if she’s still alive or not.”
“I’d appreciate that,” Harry murmured.
Nathanael flashed a smile at Harry as they entered another chamber that was dome shaped, nearly seventy feet across and fifty feet high. The floor consisted of that mysterious metal and the dome consisted of a strange combination of the metal, granite, and crystal. All around the perimeter of the chamber were open doors. “Ahh…we’re here,” Nathanael stated as he pulled his cart up next to several others that were parked in a row next to the tunnel entrance. “Come. Follow me. Your quarters are right next to Hannibal’s quarters. We gave you one of the larger ones,” he said, leading them toward the nearest entrance to their right.
“This place has barracks?” Harry asked with interest.
Dennis scanned everything as Nathanael led them into the passage. “Yes, it was one of stranger things we found in here. Apparently, there must have been a fairly large contingent of people who stayed here. Little was left in the various quarters though,” he replied as he led them down the corridor which was twelve feet high by fifteen feet across.
The strange illumination that Harry had seen everywhere was here too. “What’s lighting this place up?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Nathanael answered. “But the light seems to be motion-controlled. Whenever anyone moving anywhere in the machine area, the light is on. Like right here for instance, look at the ceiling.” He pointed out a strip of the ceiling that was lit, going in both directions. “This is one of the places where you can actually see where the light is coming from. The quarters, though, have switches to turn the light on and off. Oh, here we are,” he said, turning right after they had walked sixty yards down the passage. Before them stood a doorway blocked by a metal door. It had no handles and was completely smooth. Nathanael gently pressed on the door and it slid open laterally. Harry looked at Dennis, whose mouth hung open in astonishment. Nathanael walked in and said, “Come on in.” Everyone entered and the door slid shut quietly. Harry and his family looked around at their new home.
“I hope this will do,” Selina chimed as she followed everyone into the room.
The room they stood in was thirty-five feet by thirty feet with a ceiling that was fifteen feet high. The temperature was a pleasant seventy-five degrees. The place had been completely furnished and the salvaged items from Harry’s house were sitting on the sofa and on the floor next to it. The back wall was set up with a small kitchen, complete with counter, cabinets, stove, sink, and refrigerator. In the back left corner lay a hallway leading away from the living area. “There are three bedrooms and a full bathroom down the hall. You might want to use the spare room as a study or something,” Nathanael suggested. “We took a little liberty in placing the furniture and some of your things. If you want to move them around, feel free to do so. This is your place now.”
“This place is huge,” Harry breathed, looking around the room.
Selina went to what appeared to be a small console on the wall next to the door and she pressed a button, saying, “This’ll help to keep this place from feeling like such a tomb.” The walls suddenly faded away as a holographic mural of a beautiful jungle as seen from the ground replaced it. It covered the walls back to the kitchen. Nathanael and Selina smiled as they watched Harry and his family’s reaction to the mural.
Harry’s mouth hung open, as did Mary’s. Dennis’ eyes glowed in wonder at the hologram. He immediately went to the hologram and tried to touch it. His hand passed through it and touched the wall behind it. “It looks so real!” Dennis said.
“This is incredible,” Harry finally said. “It makes it feel like we’re in a hut in the middle of a jungle rather than thousands of feet underground.”
“That it does,” Nathanael answered. “Let me show you where everything is.”
Harry nodded and Nathanael showed them each room and how everything worked. Each room had its own holographic mural that was so realistic even sound and wind was simulated. When they came back to the living room, Selina pointed out that they could change the holograms to anything they wanted. “You know, this place is better than where I was living,” Harry commented to Nathanael.
“Well…Hannibal thought with the loss of your home you’d need a pretty nice place to stay,” Nathanael declared. “I hope it’s adequate.”
“Oh. It’s more than adequate,” Harry chimed.
“Yes, it’s very nice and will do very well,” Mary agreed.
“Where’s Hannibal’s place?” Harry asked.
“It’s next door,” Nathanael replied. Then to Selina, he added, “Why don’t you stay and help Mary and Dennis settle in.”
“Okay Dad,” Selina replied. “I’ll also show them around some more after we get done.”
“All right,” Nathanael returned. “Harry, would you like to come with me. Hannibal is going to need some help.”
Harry nodded. “Where do you and Selina stay?” he asked.
“We’re right next door too. I share quarters with my dad,” Selina informed them.
“You’re right between us and Hannibal,” Nathanael added. “Now come, let’s go help Hannibal.”
“I’ll be back after a while,” Harry told Mary before following Nathanael out the door. They went back to the golf cart and Nathanael drove them to the portal chamber. “How many people does Hannibal have working here?” Harry asked.
“We have about seventy people working here. All of them were hand-picked by Hannibal himself,” Nathanael answered while turning the golf cart into the main tunnel leading to the portal chamber. “But that seventy have about a dozen or so children between them, so there’s actually between eighty and eighty-five people here, not counting you and your family.”
“Oh…okay. How far is the barracks from the cafeteria?” Harry asked.
“It’s roughly two hundred yards. That’s one of the reasons we put the cafeteria where we did,” Nathanael replied. “That way everyone could have easy access to the cafeteria.”
They drove on in silence for a few minutes, and then Harry asked, “Where does the machine area stop?”
“You sure ask a lot of questions,” Nathanael commented.
“Well that’s the only way I can learn anything,” Harry returned. “What else can I do? This is the first time I’ve been here.”
“Touché,” Nathanael answered, chuckling. “The machine area stops about three quarters of a mile from the barracks. The Library is about a quarter of a mile from the edge of the machine area.”
“Just how big is the machine area, anyway?” Harry probed.
“The machine area is measured in miles. Exactly how big it is anyone’s guess,” Nathanael stated. “The farthest point we’ve explored in the machine area thus far is about five miles from the barracks and down a good thirteen hundred feet below the portal level.” Harry’s mind raced as he rode, trying to comprehend the vastness of where he was. A few minutes later, they arrived at the portal chamber. All of the supplies had been dispersed to their respective places in the Temple, leaving the chamber vacant. They got off the golf cart and walked to the platform. An eerie silence encompassed the place, punctuated only by a threshold hum that emanated from the crystals in the portal machinery along with their footsteps.
“This place is right down bizarre when no one’s around,” Harry observed.
“You’re right,” Nathanael agreed as they reached the console. “But you get used to it after a while.” He pressed a button and console lit up. The chamber began to hum as he pulled out of the console something that resembled an earplug with an antenna on it. Nathanael put it in his ear.
“What’s that thing?” Harry asked.
“This is a special transceiver that allows me to control the portal without having to use the manual controls,” Nathanael replied as he gently fitted it so it was comfortable. “This little thing allows me to control the portal by just thinking about where you want to open it. I used it to monitor the perimeter when we went to your house; watch.” Nathanael concentrated and the crystal began to glow and the hologram of the Earth appeared. “What would you like to see? I can monitor almost any place on the face of the Earth with this machine,” he declared.
Harry was fascinated by the new way to control the portal. “You can monitor anywhere without being detected with this?” he asked.
“Yes, we can. It’s like a super-sophisticated spy satellite without needing a satellite in orbit,” Nathanael stated. “What we do is monitor where we want to open the portal with the hologram first to see if it’s safe to open the portal. What do you want to see?”
“You know, I’m not sure. I’ve never actually thought about it,” Harry said. He thought for a minute, and then asked, “Could you show me Tiwanaku? Hannibal told us about it the other night. I believe I’d like to see it.”
“Tiwanaku it is then,” Nathanael answered. “And it’s an excellent choice too. I never get tired of seeing that enigmatic city.” Even before he finished speaking, the hologram instantly zoomed in on the megalithic city high in the Andes.
Harry gazed at the hologram, which showed an aerial view of the city. “Could you get in closer?” he asked.
“I can do better than that,” Nathanael answered. “We don’t actually have to open to portal in order to give you a feel for the place. Watch this,” Nathanael replied, smiling wryly. The hologram suddenly grew to enormous proportions, nearly filling the entire chamber. “We don’t usually do this because it hampers the activity in here by the others. But when you’re alone, like now, it can be done.” Harry looked around at an exact holographic replica of the center of Tiwanaku in Bolivia. His mouth hung open in amazement. “This is incredible. It’s like I’m really there!” he breathed. He gazed in awe at the massive structures and stones that were all around him. He proceeded to explore the hologram on the platform as Nathanael watched. “I had no idea that these stones were so big. They’re enormous!” Harry said.
“That they are,” Hannibal answered as he came up the holographic road with seven men. “I see you’ve shown Harry one of the special features of the portal,” he said to Nathanael, who smiled.
“Yes, I did. We got here a little early so I decided to educate him,” Nathanael replied as Hannibal approached the console with Harry and the seven men who had come with him.
“Why don’t you show him a real view,” Hannibal suggested. “And be creative with your choice.”
Nathanael smiled and said, “All right. Try this on for size.” The hologram of Tiwanaku vanished in an instant, being replaced by a hologram of a quadruple star system in the midst of a stunning star cloud. It had two sets of binary stars in orbit around each other. The focus of the hologram seemed to be a planet in orbit around one pair of stars. It was an enormous emerald green planet with twin rings and ten moons in orbit. When the new hologram appeared, the whole chamber seemed to vanish, leaving everyone hanging in outer space. Harry latched onto the console in fear as he looked at Hannibal with awe.
Hannibal saw the reaction and chuckled. “Don’t be afraid,” he told Harry. “It’s just a holographic illusion. We’re still in the portal chamber.” Then to Nathanael, he added. “Good choice. By the way, where is this?”
“This is Gamma Omicron Correlia 6, sitting approximately seventy thousand light-years from this planet on the inner edge of the second spiral arm on the Kaitian side of the galaxy,” Nathanael declared. “It’s the most distant star system we ever reached in our explorations of the galaxy. Gamma Omicron Correlia 6 lies almost fifteen thousand light-years from Kaitia, far beyond the borders of the Kaitian Empire’s territory.”
“Whoa,” Harry murmured. “For a moment there, I thought I’d fallen off the face of the Earth.”
“In a way, you did,” Hannibal said. “These holograms are of such precision that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between them and the real thing.”
“I thought you said that Kaitian space spanned about twelve hundred light-years,” Harry reminded Nathanael. “How is it that you know of this place since it’s so far from your part of the galaxy?”
“That’s a good question, Harry,” Nathanael admitted. “We know of this system because of a malfunction in our star drives while making a warp jump using a pulsar. One of our experimental starships, the Chimeras, had an engine imbalance that accidentally caused a wormhole to open up as they approached Pulsar 67803. The gravitational flux of the pulsar had become unstable and caused the engines to super accelerate. The result was the ship was flung through an unstable wormhole to the Gamma Omicron system where it was deposited in orbit around Correlia 6 with a complete engine failure. But the Chimeras wasn’t alone when the incident occurred. Its sister ship, the Interceptor…the same ship Hannibal rescued Selina and I from was there when the malfunction occurred on the Chimeras. They followed the Chimeras through the wormhole and rescued the crew of the doomed Chimeras. Fate smiled upon the crew of the Interceptor that day because the unstable wormhole opened by the engine imbalance of the Chimeras and the fluctuating gravitational fields of Pulsar 67803 stayed open just long enough for the rescue to take place. The Interceptor came back through the wormhole, but didn’t come out at Pulsar 67803. They emerged from the wormhole some two hundred light-years from the pulsar on the very edge of Kaitian space near NGR 1559034…a one thousand solar mass black hole near the Triaskus system.”
“Were you part of the crew of the Interceptor that day?” Hannibal asked.
“No,” Nathanael stated. “Though I wish I had been. To see Gamma Omicron Correlia 6 in person would have been a luxury I wouldn’t have passed up. But at the time, I was on another ship coming back from the excavations in the Alpha Korizant system. I was brought in after the Interceptor returned to Kaitia from the rescue mission to help debrief the crew and find out why the experimental star drive of the Chimeras malfunctioned.”
“What did you find out?” Harry asked.
“It seems there was an error in the matter/antimatter mix in the engines,” Nathanael stated. “The imbalance was multiplied by a sudden fluctuation in Pulsar 67803’s gravitational and rotational energy, which created the wormhole. It’s my opinion that the combination of the two not just created a wormhole, but it actually folded space by accident. The Interceptor came out in a different place because space was in the process of unfolding when it returned.”
“That’s a really interesting story,” Hannibal stated, “and I’d like to hear more about it later. But we have work to do that can’t wait any longer. Nathanael, check my office at the University.” Nathanael nodded and the hologram disappeared. The small hologram reappeared over the machine with Hannibal’s office in view. “Check the perimeter,” Hannibal ordered and the hologram widened to show the building in the night. It revealed no activity at the school at all.
“It looks like it’s clear for now,” Nathanael commented. “It seems that everyone has gone home.”
“Good. Open the portal to my office,” Hannibal stated. The hologram changed back to the office. The portal machinery then began to resonate as the crystals hummed and shined. The beams of light sprang from the crystals, opening the portal. “We don’t have much time. Let’s go. Nathanael, keep watch,” Hannibal ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Nathanael answered. They proceeded through the portal into Hannibal’s office.
Hannibal turned on the light and ordered, “Take all the research materials. There can’t be as much as a shred of paper left with anything about the Temple or Amacia.” The men immediately began to clean out the filing cabinets and the desks. “Harry, come with me,” Hannibal ordered as he headed toward the door.
Harry followed him out into the hall, asking, “What’re we doing?”
“There are some samples in the lab we need to retrieve,” Hannibal said as he scanned the dark hall in both directions. “Come,” he said, sprinting down the hall to the right. He passed a couple of classrooms, and came to a lab. Pulling a key card out of his pocket, Hannibal swiped the electronic lock on the lab and opened the door. Upon entering, he turned the light on and looked around at the lab tables and the cabinets. Walking to the cabinets, he checked them as Harry instinctively watched the door. Hannibal reached the last cabinet and searched through it. “Ahh, here it is,” he said, pulling out several small sample bags filled with what appeared to be metal filings.
“Is that what I think it is?” Harry asked.
“Yes,” Hannibal answered. “These are the samples of the metal from the books and superstructure in the Temple. Come, let’s go.” They left the lab as they had found it with Hannibal turning out the lights as they exited.
“Something’s not right here,” Harry suddenly blurted out when they reached Hannibal’s office. “I feel like someone is watching us.”
Hannibal stopped just outside of the door and looked intently into the darkness of the hall. Harry started to speak but Hannibal shushed him. He listened intently to the darkness for a few seconds, and then said, “I know. I feel it too. We’re being watched.” They went in the office to find the crew nearly done with moving out the research materials. “How much more time, Jerry?” he asked.
“Just a couple of minutes,” Jerry answered.
“Take the computers,” Hannibal ordered. “They belong to me anyhow.” Jerry nodded and continued with the sanitation process. A noise from outside the window suddenly alerted Hannibal so he and Harry ran to the window. They peeked through the blinds out into the darkness of the parking lot in front of the building, seeing several sets of lights speeding into the parking lot heading directly for the building.
Nathanael peeked through the portal and urged, “We have company, Hannibal. Better hurry.”
“Come on, guys; time’s up! Let get this stuff and get out of here!” Hannibal insisted, grabbing an armful of research materials and handing it to one of his moving crew. “Harry, lock the door,” he barked. Harry immediately went to the door and opened it, looking down the hall. He didn’t see anything but heard the slamming of doors and the sound of footsteps echoing down the hall. He ducked back in and locked the door just as the last of the materials had been removed. “Kill the light,” Hannibal ordered, motioning for him to come to the portal.
“They’re coming,” Harry announced as he cut off the light. He darted to the portal next to Hannibal, who was writing a note. “What’re you doing?” Harry asked in a concerned manner.
“I’m just leaving them a little note to irritate them,” Hannibal answered as he finished the note. “After what they did to you, they deserve it. Come on.” The sound of heavy footsteps and clanking of weapons echoed from the hall. They looked at the window on the office door and saw the light from several flashlights shining in the hall, and then ducked through the portal with the portal snapping shut as the door was kicked open. Ten men poured in the room, all armed with automatic weapons.
The leader turned the light on and looked around. “Shit! He took everything!” he cursed. The men searched all the cabinets, desks, and files, finding nothing related to Hannibal’s research.
One of the men found the note on the desk and called out, “Captain. I have something here.”
The captain walked over to the desk and the man handed him the note. He looked at it, reading, “Missed me again, Boris. Tough luck; catch me if you can. Beowulf.” The captain’s face contorted in rage as he crumple up the note in his fist and cursed, flinging the balled-up note across the room and kicking the desk. “Come on,” he ordered to his men and they filed out of the room and left the building.
Hannibal, Harry, Nathanael, Jerry, and the moving crew stood watching what was going on with the hologram. Hannibal broke out laughing at their apparent inability to apprehend him or his research. Harry looked at Hannibal with a puzzled look, and then broke out laughing too as he realized what Hannibal had done. Within a minute, everyone was laughing at the misfortune of the invaders. “You know, that was close,” Nathanael said, chuckling.
“Yeah…too close. It looks like my snitch was right on the money,” Hannibal replied, still laughing. “This little incident ought to put me on top of their most wanted terrorist list now.”
Harry then looked at him with a serious look on his face. “Do they know where this place is?” Harry asked.
“Not at the moment,” Hannibal answered. “Though, they could probably find out. This place still is the safest place even if they find out. For one thing, they can’t get in here. The main entrance is sealed with two hundred feet of solid rock and the silent entrance is mined and guarded heavily with remote sentries. It would be suicide for them to even think to attempt coming in here.” He turned to his help and said, “Take this stuff to my office. I’ll deal with it there.” Jerry nodded and the crew started loading the golf carts with the research and carried it away. Turning to Nathanael, Hannibal asked, “Could you bring up my house? I’m curious to see if it and my garden are still there.” Nathanael nodded and the hologram changed to Hannibal’s house, or rather what was left of it. The hologram showed nothing but a burned-out ruin with only part of a charred wall and chimney standing in the moonlight. Even the garden had been burned to ashes. He looked at it intensely and said, “Hmpt. It looks like they paid me a visit too. That’s probably why they were so upset when they came to the University. Well, too bad for them. Once again, I’ve slipped through their nets. Come, Harry. It’s been a long day. I’m sure you’re tired. I know I am.” Nathanael removed the earpiece, put it back on the console, and pressed a button as Hannibal and Harry started walking to the golf carts. The console went dark and the portal machinery quieted down as Nathanael joined them. They all boarded in a golf cart with Hannibal behind the wheel and headed back to the barracks. After parking the golf cart in the barracks hub, Hannibal led them down the passage to his quarters. “I’ll show you more of the Temple tomorrow,” he stated. “There’s still much to see.”
“I’m sure there is,” Harry answered as they reached Hannibal’s quarters.
“I’m going to turn in,” Nathanael said. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Okay,” Hannibal replied while Nathanael walked a couple of doors down and went into his quarters. “Would you like to come in?” Hannibal asked Harry.
“No, I’ll see you in the morning. What time do you get up, anyway?” Harry asked.
“Anytime you want. But most of us get up around 8:00 am or so,” Hannibal replied, opening his door. “See you in the morning.”
Harry nodded as the door slid shut, leaving him in the corridor alone. His mind reeled as he looked around at the corridor. This is unbelievable. I’m really here, he thought as he walked to his door and went in. The lights were low and the jungle hologram rustled in a simulated breeze. Soft music echoed through the living room. Mary lay on the sofa, asleep. Harry gazed at her with great appreciation and quietly went over to the sofa, kneeling beside her. He softly touched her cheek with his fingers and she stirred, opening her eyes.
“You’re home,” Mary said with a yawn.
“Yes, I guess I am,” Harry replied. “It’s still so strange calling this place home. It’s going to take some time to really get used to it.”
“Yes, it is,” Mary replied, clasping his hand in hers. “But you know something; this is the first time in a very long time that I’ve actually felt safe, strange as it sounds.”
“I don’t think it’s strange that you say that,” Harry said gently. “I feel the same way. When Hannibal said we were coming here, I was a little concerned because of what he told us the other night. But he assured me this morning that this place was safe and now that I’m here with you and Dennis, I know he was right. This is the safest place on the planet. I just wish that things didn’t have to turn out like they did.”
“We seldom have any say about how events turn out,” Mary said, looking him in the eyes. Fatigue showed on his face. “Come, let’s go to bed. A good night’s sleep will help. You’ve been up for almost eighteen hours,” she added.
“It’s been that long?” Harry asked as they got up from the sofa.
“Yes,” Mary answered as she led him back to the bedroom. The bedroom door shut and the lights went out, the music ceased, and the hologram dimmed, reflecting the jungle in the late evening with a crescent moon bathing the junglescape with its eerie light. Only the sound of wind echoed through the room from the hologram, matching the circulation of the air through the hidden vents all over their quarters and throughout the Temple. Harry and his family slept soundly for the first time since the day Hannibal came to their house for dinner, changing their lives forever.