The Special Collections Library
Hannibal sat there, staring once again at the indentation on the sarcophagus panel, pondering the shape. “I know I’ve seen this shape before,” he declared. As he finished speaking, a thought flashed through his mind and he gave voice to it. “Do you still have the locket and gem your father gave you?” he asked.
“Why yes,” Harry answered. “I’ve carried it with me since you found it in the wreckage of my study.” He reached into his shirt and pulled the locket out. He had it hooked onto a chain, which hung around his neck. He took it off and handed it to Hannibal.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” Hannibal said as he retrieved the small gem from inside the locket. He handed the locket back to Harry and looked at the strange gemstone. “You don’t suppose?” he asked as he took the gem and pushed it into the indentation with a click. It fit perfectly and he glanced at Harry with a look of surprise as a grating sound emanated from within the protrusion followed by a hissing sound from the lid when the seal was broken. Within seconds, all the other sarcophagi followed suit, reacting in a similar manner. “I don’t believe it,” Hannibal breathed. “You had the key all along and didn’t know it.”
Harry stared at him with a perplexed look and helped Hannibal slide the lid back, revealing a strange mechanism inside that looked like some form of console with buttons and displays. Glyphs labeled the various functions. Hannibal and Harry looked at it with fascination. “Let’s try another sarcophagus,” Hannibal suggested as he went to the nearest sarcophagus. They pushed the lid back and a gust of air rushed out of the case, raising a cloud of dust as they moved the lid. Inside, the sarcophagus was filled with volumes of books made out of the same metal the books were made of on the first level. Hannibal gently reached in, pulled out one of the books, and opened it. “It’s made of Electronium. It’s the same as the books upstairs,” Hannibal stated as he sat the book back in the sarcophagus. “Let’s try another.” He and Harry went half way across the chamber to a sarcophagus in the middle and opened it, finding more books.
“I think all of these are filled with books,” Harry suggested as they walked back to the first sarcophagus they opened that contained the control panel.
“You’re probably right about that,” Hannibal agreed. “This one must have been some kind of mechanism that was used to lock all the sarcophagi.” He looked at the console and deciphered the glyphs. “This thing controls more than just the locks to these files,” he declared.
“Well, what else do you think it does?” Harry asked.
“I’m not sure,” Hannibal answered as he looked intently at the console. He then knelt down and removed the gem, asking, “Can you tell me the story behind how you came to have this?”
“Sure,” Harry answered. “Well, as I said the other day, it has been in my family for generations. It has been passed down from father to son for four generations. The story goes that my great, great grandfather was prospecting in the Arizona Mountains near the Anasazi cliff dwellings. Supposedly, he found a strange cave hid in a canyon and explored it. It was a pretty large cave system, but nothing like you have here. I was told that down in the deepest part of the cave, he found this gem and the locket sitting in a strange carving with writing all over it. He retrieved them and barely escaped with his life. When he took the gem and locket, the cave where he found them collapsed. He had the gem appraised and because no one had ever seen anything like it, it didn’t fetch much monetarily. They believed it was just a rock. So, rather than throw it away, he decided to keep it because of its uniqueness. He kept it with the locket, carrying it with him as good luck. He passed it to his son, to whom he told how he retrieved it. His son passed it to his son along with the story and so on and so forth until it came to me. When Dennis is old enough, I’ll give it to him and tell him the story as I heard it.”
Hannibal pondered what Harry said about the locket and gem as he handed the gem back to Harry. “Why was the key to these files hid on the other side of the planet?” Hannibal asked, scratching his head. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I don’t know, Hannibal. I just don’t know,” Harry answered. “But one thing is for certain. I’m beginning to see a multi-generational pattern of events here that’s leading to something really big. What’re the chances of my great, great grandfather finding this key, keeping it and having passed it down four generations to me, and me becoming friends with you not knowing what you were up to? What’re the odds of you finding all those little things having to do with Amacia everywhere you went and then ultimately finding this place and this Library? Then add to that the unbelievably strange turn of events that placed us here and now with the key to these things in hand ready to use. This is absolutely beyond coincidence. A higher power has to be involved here.”
“The Lord has obviously had this planned from the beginning,” Hannibal stated. “The chances you’re talking about are a statistical impossibility. There has been a higher power at work here for generations to this end. My life, your life, and every life we’ve touched has been part of that great plan the Lord is working out.” As he answered, he saw a small indentation in the control panel. “Let me see the locket,” Hannibal said.
Harry handed the locket to him after replacing the gem in it. Hannibal removed the picture and handed it to Harry, saying, “You’d better hold on to this.” Harry took the picture as Hannibal closed the locket and removed the chain. He then gently sat the locket into the indentation on the control panel. It fit perfectly as it clicked into place. The console lit up, after which the entire chamber rumbled.
“What now?” Harry asked as they looked around wildly trying to find the source of the rumble. Their gaze suddenly fell toward the far end of the chamber. Standing in awe, they saw the entire wall on the far end split, and began to slide open. A brilliant light shined through the crack as the wall separated, forcing them to hide their eyes from the glare. The wall opened thirty feet and stopped. The rumble ceased as their eyes adjusted to the bright light. Hannibal and Harry walked to the newly discovered entrance and cautiously peered through the opening into the light. Before them stretched a vast chamber that resembled a colossal geode. The chamber spanned more than two miles across and nearly six hundred feet in height with tens of thousands of sarcophagi made of crystal laid out in rows across the floor. In the center, rose a colossal crystalline machine nearly two hundred feet in height. The whole chamber resonated with a soft hum.
“Holy shit!” Harry cursed in amazement. “I think we just found the special collections, Hannibal.”
“Looks like it,” Hannibal agreed. “You wait here while I check it out.”
Harry nodded. “Watch yourself,” he warned. “No one’s ever been in here before.”
“Right,” Hannibal replied as he cautiously entered the chamber and looked around intensely. He immediately noticed everything was made of crystal, even the floor. Slowly inching forward, Hannibal marveled at the beauty of the place. Once one hundred feet into the new section without being assaulted by any security devices, he turned and walked back to Harry. “Looks like it’s okay,” Hannibal declared. “This must be the Library’s core.” Reaching into his pocket, Hannibal pulled out a communicator, opening it. “Nathanael, Selina. Are you on-line?” he called into the device.
Hannibal waited a moment and then repeated the message. A couple of seconds after the second message, Nathanael’s voice came back through acknowledging Hannibal. Then Selina answered as well. “Could you join me in the second level of the Library? We’ve uncovered another section that may be the core of the Library,” Hannibal ordered. They both replied that they would be there in a couple of minutes.
“I think we’d better have some backup before checking this new chamber out,” Hannibal suggested, pocketing his communicator.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Harry agreed, following Hannibal to the nearest sarcophagus, which sat in the chamber about thirty feet. Hannibal examined the strange crystal coffin. Harry watched as Hannibal moved around the sarcophagus like a ghost, flitting from one end to another, running his hands over it as if he were reading it through his touch.
“It doesn’t seem to have any locking mechanism,” he said. “Give me a hand with this.” Harry and Hannibal pushed on the lid and it didn’t move. “Try again,” Hannibal ordered and they pushed with all their might to no avail. “Hmmm…there must be an internal lock like those in the other room,” Hannibal said as Nathanael and Selina strode up.
“Oh my; this is so beautiful,” Selina purred as she looked around.
“That it is,” Nathanael agreed. “How did you get in here?”
“Believe it or not, Harry’s locket opened this chamber and the gem inside the locket opened the sarcophagi in the other room,” Hannibal said as he led them back to the control panel sarcophagus. “All of the sarcophagi in here opened when we put the gem in this indentation,” he said, pointing out the indentation in the dome shaped protrusion on the sarcophagus. “Then the console lit up and the wall opened when I put the locket here,” he added, pointing to where the locket sat in the console.
“Indeed,” Nathanael replied in a surprised tone. “Let’s check out the new chamber.” They went back into the geode chamber and spread out, making their way toward the great crystalline machine in the middle. Hannibal made a beeline to the machine, which he reached in twenty minutes.
Everyone else gathered around as Hannibal examined the awesome edifice. The machine was composed completely of translucent white crystal, stood two hundred feet in height, and was nearly seventy feet across. It hummed softly as they probed its circumference. Within minutes, they located a recess roughly ten feet deep and eight feet high in the side of the crystal. A strange chair and control panel occupied the hole and seemed to be part of the crystal itself with the panel being trimmed in a shimmering metal that resembled gold, platinum, and mercury combined. The chair and panel glowed softly in the hole. “This must be the access point,” Hannibal surmised as he cautiously approached the chair. He sat in the chair as everyone watched.
“Be careful,” Harry warned. “You know nothing about this thing.” Selina and Nathanael’s faces betrayed their concern and uncertainty as Hannibal examined the control panel. An unearthly glow illuminated him. The control panel was labeled with strange glyphs, which Hannibal studied intensely. He suddenly sat back in the chair and sighed. “This is the strangest thing I believe I’ve ever seen,” Hannibal admitted. As he finished speaking, the crystal began shining brilliantly.
“Hannibal!” Harry cried out as the light became so bright Hannibal became lost in the glare. The others staggered back, shielding their eyes. The great mechanism went from a low hum to an ear-piercing shriek that lasted only a few seconds. Nathanael and Selina grabbed their ears with their hands to stop the noise. Harry dropped to his knees and grabbed his ears as well. After the shriek, the crystal’s brilliance faded, glowing softly, and resonating loudly in a low tone that made the place rumble deeply. The noise level remained just bearable as they moved back toward Hannibal. He was visible in the chair, bathed in the brilliance of the recess, sitting there like a great king on a throne with a shaft of light from the console illuminating his eyes, which stared blankly into space. An eerie membrane of light covered the entrance to the recess. It pulsed softly as they approached the recess. Harry reached in to grab Hannibal by the wrist. When he touched the membrane of light, a surge of power ran up his arm, throwing him fifteen feet, stunning him.
Nathanael and Selina ran to him and helped him sit up. “Are you all right?” Selina asked with great concern.
Harry shook his arm, trying to dissipate the charge. “Yeah,” he replied. “What was that? It felt like I grabbed a power line.” His arm and chest tingled with the residual charge of the power surge.
They helped him up and looked at Hannibal behind the light membrane. “There’s some kind of energy field protecting Hannibal,” Nathanael stated. “I doubt that we’ll be able to breech it.”
“Well, how are we going to get him out of there?” Harry asked as they reached the shield.
“I don’t know,” Nathanael answered, watching helplessly as Hannibal appeared lost to the machine.
Selina grabbed on to Nathanael’s arm and asked, “Have you ever seen anything like this, Dad?”
“No, princess. This technology is beyond our level by a great deal,” Nathanael answered, tapping the shield of light gently with his claw. The shield snapped as Nathanael tapped it, repulsing his hand violently. “And the shield has a fair amount of voltage running through it too. I barely touched it and it numbed my arm almost to my shoulder.” He shook his arm to get feeling back into his arm.
“We have to get him out of there!” Harry insisted. “It’s doing something to him!” Even as he spoke, the light membrane faded with the light inside the recess while the chamber rumbled. Nathanael, Selina, and Harry looked around to locate the source of the rumble only to find that it was coming from every direction, apparently coming from every sarcophagus in the entire chamber. Selina looked back at Hannibal and noticed he was beginning to slump in the chair. Seeing the shield down, she rushed forward and caught him as he slumped forward. Nathanael and Harry immediately joined her as she gently sat Hannibal back up in the chair. They all noticed that the recess the chair sat in was very warm but not obnoxiously hot. Selina looked into Hannibal’s face as she gently held his head up. Sweat dripped profusely off Hannibal’s face and neck, drenching his shirt while small dribbles of blood oozed from his nose, eyes, and ears. The hair around his temples had turned snow white. The blank look they had seen while he sat within the shield was gone. Great intelligence shown from his eyes but the rest of his face revealed tremendous fatigue and pain. For a few moments, his eyes were glazed and fixed.
Selina gently shook him as she held his head in her hands. “Hannibal. Hannibal. Are you all right?” she asked.
Selina’s call softly echoed in his ears. He slowly blinked a couple of times and shook his head slightly as he followed Selina’s repeated calls back to consciousness. Harry’s voice echoed in his ears, and then Nathanael’s. He closed his eyes for a few moments as they continued to try to bring him around. Hannibal suddenly opened his eyes and exhaled heavily, looking Selina in the face. At first, his vision was blurry, but it quickly cleared and his head pounded. “What a rush! I’d hug you but I haven’t the strength to even hold my head up,” Hannibal said feebly to Selina. She smiled and embraced him, relieved that he was alive.
“Could you tell me what the hell just happened?” Harry demanded.
“Yes,” Nathanael agreed with a high level of curiosity. “What was that?”
Hannibal’s chest wheezed and rattled with each breath. His head pounded with excruciating pain. He sat in silence for several moments before speaking. “This is some sort of teaching machine,” Hannibal explained, looking around at the machine. “In the last five minutes, I learned a lifetime’s worth of knowledge: mainly how this machine works, how to unlock the files, which I did, and the entire history of this place and more. I also learned the Stone Language that is written on everything in here. This machine has unlimited capability to help man learn and grow as a species. The control panel here is used to select various subjects from the files. The machine has every volume in here at its disposal. All we have to do is….” He stopped for a moment as he became light-headed. Within seconds, his eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out, slumping into Selina’s arms once again.
“We have to get him out of here and to the healing chamber,” Selina announced in a concerned tone. “This thing has hurt him seriously.”
Nathanael moved in without argument and gently picked Hannibal up out of the chair with Selina’s help. “We must restrict all access to this chamber,” Nathanael stated as he started to carry Hannibal out of the chamber. “This machine is dangerous. We can’t risk anyone else getting hurt by it.”
“I think that’s a wise choice,” Harry agreed. “Besides, we’ve got more than enough to do with the Library’s two other chambers. This place here is so vast that it would take several lifetimes to just go through all the books.”
“You’re definitely right about that, Harry,” Selina agreed. “We need to seal this chamber back up so no one can get to it.”
Within minutes, they stood outside of the geode chamber in the second level of the Library. Harry approached the console sarcophagus and said, “I hope this closes the door.” Nathanael and Selina paused to watch as he picked up the locket out of the console. The chamber rumbled as the walls slowly closed. Harry pocketed his locket and followed Nathanael and Selina out of the Library.
Minutes later, they reached the nearest healing chamber in the machine area and Nathanael gently put Hannibal on the table. The crystal began to glow and resonate. The beam of light emanated from the crystal and covered Hannibal from head to toe. Within twenty seconds, the beam began to pulse and the strange music began to play. Harry’s arm and chest was still tingling from his encounter with the energy field. It was really beginning to bother him so he laid down on one of the other tables. Nathanael and Selina watched Hannibal intently as the machine did its work, not noticing Harry climb on one of the tables. The crystal remedied Harry’s complaint in ten minutes; however, it took the crystal nearly twelve hours to heal Hannibal’s injuries. Word spread of Hannibal’s condition and the research team filtered in and out, checking on his progress. Selina, Harry, Nathanael, and Mary stayed with him in shifts. Harry and Mary were sitting at his side as the crystal finished its work. Nathanael and Selina walked in just as the crystal shut down. “Is it done with him?” Selina asked as they walked up.
“Yes,” Harry answered. “I think so.” They gathered around the table and gazed sympathetically at Hannibal, who lay sound asleep.
“I wonder what that thing really did to him,” Nathanael asked.
“I don’t know,” Harry answered. “Whatever it was, he wasn’t able to handle it. I’m just glad it didn’t kill him.”
Mary reached out and touched Hannibal on the shoulder. He didn’t respond. She gently shook him and continued to get no response. “I don’t think this is over, guys,” she said. “He’s not waking up.”
Selina leaned over Hannibal and opened his eyes to examine them. She took his pulse and checked his breathing. His pulse was slow but steady and his breathing was normal. She leaned down and called in his ear, “Hannibal. Hannibal. Wake up.” She did it several times and received no response. “This is strange,” she said. “His vitals are all right but it seems like there’s no one home.” Selina shook him gently and called his name again, with no response from him. A small prick of fear began to rise in her heart. “Something’s still not right. He appears to be in some form of coma,” she declared.
“Let’s get him back to his quarters,” Nathanael ordered. “He can be cared for better there. Harry, give me a hand.” Nathanael, Harry, and Selina gently picked Hannibal’s limp body up off the table and carried it to the golf cart. Selina and Mary sat either side of him, holding him up. Harry rode shotgun as Nathanael drove the cart back to the barracks. Selina laid Hannibal’s head on her chest and purred for him while Mary helped to steady him.
Within minutes, they reached Hannibal’s quarters and carried him to his bed, laying him down and covering him with the blankets. Once they covered him, Selina announced, “I’ll stay with him.”
Nathanael acknowledged her. “Mary, could you stay with him too?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” Mary replied. “We’ll take good care of him until he wakes up.”
“Good,” Nathanael returned. “We leave him in your care. Come with me, Harry. We have much work to do.” Harry nodded and followed Nathanael out the door.
Selina and Mary watched over him, cleaning his quarters while they were there. Five hours passed with no change in his condition. It was getting late when Selina said to Mary, “Go home and take care of your family. I can handle this.”
“Are you sure?” Mary queried.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Selina answered as they stood in Hannibal’s living room. “Go on. I’ll be all right.”
“Okay,” Mary sighed. “I’ll bring you something to eat after dinner.”
“That’ll be good,” Selina answered. Mary smiled and left the quarters, going a few steps to her quarters where she fixed Harry and Dennis some dinner after cleaning up. Selina sighed and went back into the bedroom, sitting down on the bed and leaning against the headboard. She gently pulled Hannibal up into her lap, letting his head lay on her belly. Wrapping her arms around him, she purred for him, stroking his tangled hair softly with one hand. My dear sweet friend…what did that machine do to you? she thought. Grief about not being able to help him slowly grew in her heart so she prayed silently. A couple of hours passed and she drifted off to sleep, slumping down across the head of the bed with Hannibal still in her lap and her arm draped gently across Hannibal’s chest and shoulder. Mary came back a half-hour later with some dinner for Selina. She went back in the bedroom and saw Selina asleep purring softly with Hannibal lying in her lap and his head resting on her belly. Mary smiled and shook her head sympathetically. Deciding not to disturb them, Mary went to the kitchen and put the dinner in Hannibal’s refrigerator before going back to her quarters.
As she left Hannibal’s quarters, Nathanael and Harry met her in the hall. “How is he?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know,” Mary answered. “But I know that if there’s anyone that can awaken him, it’s Selina. They have bonded in a special way. I knew it the moment I saw them together at our house. Now it’s really showing. At the moment, both of them are asleep.”
“Really?” Nathanael asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes,” Mary replied. “She’s apparently trying to use her purr to bring him out of it, but it hasn’t worked yet. The poor dear wore herself out. Come see for yourself.” Mary led them back to the bedroom and showed them. Selina lay fast asleep with Hannibal lying in her lap still unconscious. They watched for a few moments, and then Hannibal stirred and turned on his side, throwing his arm onto Selina’s side.
“That’s a good sign,” Nathanael said when he saw the movement. “He hasn’t moved before now has he?
“No, sir,” Mary answered. “This is the first time he’s moved since we brought him here.”
Suddenly while still asleep, Hannibal began to speak in a language that no one understood. He uttered a couple of sentences and then became quiet again.
“Let’s go,” Nathanael ordered quietly. “Let’s leave them be. She’s had a long day. You may be right about that bond, Mary.” They slowly backed out of the bedroom and Nathanael said as they walked to the living room “Go home and get some sleep. I’ll watch for a little while in case he wakes up.” Harry and Mary nodded, going back to their quarters. Nathanael returned to the bedroom and surveyed the scene again. “My precious princess; you love him so much. I don’t understand why I couldn’t see that before now,” he whispered. He then noticed that she was lying in an awkward position, so he went to the bed and retrieved some pillows. Very gently, he raised her up and put the pillows under her to prop her up, making her more comfortable. She moaned a little and shifted her position to accommodate the pillows, yet continued to remain fast asleep. Her purr rumbled softly from within her chest. Nathanael retrieved a spare blanket and covered her back and shoulders with it. Kissing her on the top of the head, Nathanael stood back, looked at the two of them, and sighed. “Please come back to us, my friend,” he said softly and left the room. He went into the living room and plopped down on the sofa where he drifted off to sleep.