Back in Sumatra at the Temple of Tiamat, Hannibal and Selina stood in the control room of the core with Hannibal gazing intently at the control panel. He searched the panel for several minutes, and then said with some relief, “Thank God; the machine’s operating normally.”
“Were you worried about a malfunction?” Selina asked.
“Yeah,” Hannibal replied while continuing to study the console. “I had this sudden feeling that something was wrong down here. But there’s obviously nothing wrong here. Maybe the feeling was about something else. I don’t know.”
“It could be,” Selina answered. “Maybe there’s something going on outside that’s tweaking your instincts.”
“Possibly,” Hannibal murmured. “It could be that the Lord wants me to do something with this machine.”
“What would He want you to do with this?” Selina asked. “You don’t even know how to operate it.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Hannibal retorted mildly. “It seems I’m getting more and more back from that jolt the Teacher gave me. I think I’m beginning to understand this thing.”
“Really,” Selina answered in a tone reflecting her curiosity. “Have you figured out this console yet?”
“Yeah,” Hannibal declared. “I believe so and it’s just as I suspected. This control panel operates a variety of different defensive mechanisms. One of these defensive systems is a cloaking device of some kind. Once activated, this Temple will be invisible to anyone that’s outside to the point that anyone looking at it will only believe there’s a mountain and jungle here. They’ll actually be able to walk up to it and not see or feel it, making it the perfect camouflage. It’ll also create an impenetrable shield around the Temple.”
Selina nodded with a grunt. “So, are you going to turn it on?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” Hannibal replied. “There are forces at work here that I don’t completely understand. We’re just hedging our bets with this now that I somehow understand this machine.” He touched a sequence on the control panel and said, “That ought to do it.” The panel glowed brightly as the core began to produce more power. They looked at the hologram and saw a giant shockwave of power emerge from the core and race up the spire. Looking out the window, Hannibal and Selina watched the power surges from the spire triple in intensity. The control room rumbled and a secondary hologram appeared to one side of the main hologram. It was a hologram of the entire outside of the Temple, including the draken colossus and the mountain from which it was carved. The hologram reflected everything going on outside the Temple. A great pulse of power shot out of the platform where they had observed the strange phenomena six weeks earlier. It spread like a shockwave with giant electrical discharges striking all up and down the colossus. The shockwave encompassed the whole mountain and they watched as the structures faded away in the hologram, leaving only their outlines in it. The pair watched in fascination as the platform, the colossus, and all traces of structure disappeared. “This is truly awesome. You know, if I’m reading this right, there’s a mechanism for active defense of this place. There’s even a self-destruct mechanism here too. It’s right here,” Hannibal said, pointing to a small clear dome with a strange looking switch under it.
“That’s good to know,” Selina returned. “Let go outside and see if the cloak is really working.”
“Good call; let’s go,” Hannibal ordered and they started back to the portal chamber. An hour and a half later, they stood outside in the edge of the jungle, just a few feet from where the edge of the platform would have been. “This is incredible!” Hannibal said as he and Selina walked to where the platform and the colossus should have been. In its place was nothing but jungle growth that looked and felt real. They saw absolutely no trace of the structure. “It’s gone and there’s no way to tell that it was ever here,” Hannibal breathed as they searched the old platform area.
“I’ll have to admit,” Selina agreed. “This is astounding. We were able to make holograms with our technology but not at this level. This is truly amazing. It’s as if that machine restructured the entire area to hide the Temple. Our enemies will never find this place now.”
“I believe you’re right,” Hannibal agreed as they walked back to the portal and into the portal chamber. The portal snapped shut behind them and Hannibal put the console remote back into its place. “We’ll need to tell everyone about the new defensive shield,” he said.
They walked across the platform and Hannibal suddenly became dizzy to the point that he stumbled and fell. Selina quickly caught and sat him down on the platform, holding him up. “Are you all right?” she asked.
Hannibal’s eyes glazed as he said, “I don’t know. I feel very strange.” He suddenly began to jabber in the Stone Language.
Selina realized that he might be having a surge of recalled knowledge from the incident with the Teacher so she attempted to reach him telepathically. The moment she made contact, her consciousness exploded as the sheer volume of knowledge flooding into Hannibal’s feeble brain overwhelmed her. It flowed and surged through her mind, literally shattering and then fusing her telepathic contact with him, knocking her senseless while sending her sprawling back several feet as if she had been struck by a tremendous power surge. Within seconds of the onset of the attack, Hannibal fell unconscious and Selina lay next to him stunned, struggling to regain consciousness of her own. Both of them lay there for nearly twenty minutes, at which time, Nathanael and Harry happened to come into the portal chamber.
Nathanael’s keen eyesight immediately noticed two figures laying on the platform and he said to Harry, “I think we have a problem here.” They rushed forward to see Hannibal out cold and Selina moaning and shaking her head. Dropping to their knees, Nathanael and Harry tried to bring them around but were unable to do so. “This isn’t good,” Nathanael said as Dan and Jerry showed up. They immediately ran over to see what had happened. “We need to get them back to their quarters,” Nathanael ordered.
“What happened?” Dan asked.
“We don’t know. We just walked in and found them like this,” Harry informed.
“I suspect that Hannibal may have had an overload from the Library incident with the Teacher but I’m not sure,” Nathanael said as he picked up Selina. “Let’s get them back to the barracks. I’ll be able to determine something there.”
Dan, Harry, and Jerry lifted Hannibal and carried him to an awaiting golf cart. Jerry got behind the wheel as Nathanael climbed aboard with Selina. “Drive!” Nathanael ordered urgently. Within minutes, they laid Hannibal and Selina next to each other on the bed in Hannibal’s quarters. “Dan, Jerry. You can go back to whatever you were doing. Harry and I will deal with this,” Nathanael ordered. Dan and Jerry hesitated with concerned looks on their faces. “I’ll let you know when we know something,” Nathanael reassured. Dan and Jerry nodded and left.
“What do you suppose happened to her?” Harry asked as he watched Selina rock slowly from side to side, moaning softly with her eyes glazed over. Hannibal lay like a rock, eyes fixed and glazed, staring into infinity.
“I don’t know,” Nathanael said. “But I intend to find out.” He gently grabbed Selina and held her firmly to keep her from rocking. Next, he looked deep into her eyes, touching her temple with his fingers in an attempt to make telepathic contact with his daughter. A sudden jolt ran through him, throwing him back violently across the floor.
Harry’s mouth hung open and he quickly moved to help Nathanael up. “Are you all right?” Harry asked.
Nathanael shook his head to gather his wits as Harry helped him up. “Yeah,” Nathanael replied. “It’s incredible. I saw her mind for an instant. It was just as I suspected. Hannibal has had a catastrophic download from his experience in the Library a month ago. The information stored in his subconscious is violently cascading into his conscious mind. Selina made telepathic contact, trying to determine what was wrong and she was caught in the middle of it. She inadvertently shared the download with him and is now caught in its grip. The only thing that has kept her from going completely under like Hannibal is the fact that she isn’t human, but Lynxian with great mental strength.”
“Is there anything that you can do?” Harry asked in a worried manner.
“I don’t know. I’m not as skilled a telepath as she is. I could try and make contact again but I very well may end up like them,” Nathanael declared. “Because of their telepathic link to each other, they’re caught together in the same maelstrom. This may be their salvation. If their minds can stay linked, they may be able to come out of it.”
Nathanael and Harry looked at each other as Harry pleaded, “If you can do anything, please try. We’re talking about your daughter and our best friend here.”
Nathanael nodded solemnly. “You’re right,” he agreed. “But I’m going to need some help. I need to make contact with your mind before I try to contact her so I can use you as an anchor. If I’m not careful, we both may end up catatonic just like them.”
Harry looked Nathanael in the face and said insistently, “Do it.”
“Okay now…just relax. This is going to feel a little weird since you’ve never had someone make telepathic contact with you before,” Nathanael declared as he reached out telepathically to Harry. He linked up with Harry’s mind and thought, Can you hear me, Harry?
Harry nodded, saying aloud, “You’re right. This is really weird.”
Good, Nathanael responded telepathically. I’m now going to try to make contact with Selina.
Nathanael sat down next to her and once again gently restrained her, looking deep into her glazed eyes. He reached out again to her, calling to her in his thoughts. Harry stood there with absolute fascination as he could see and hear everything that Nathanael did in his mind. Nathanael drew on Harry’s strength and probed deeper and deeper, constantly calling to her but unable to make contact. His mind was beaten and whipped with the maelstrom of knowledge that swirled in Selina’s mind. He began to sweat and Harry had to sit down as Nathanael searched frantically. Finally, he began to hear a faint echo of Selina calling out. He moved toward it and the dim outlines of two figures emerged from the tempest: Selina and Hannibal. He called out to her mind, Selina, can you see me?
No, dad! I can’t find you! Hannibal’s hurt bad! I can’t leave him! Selina answered back.
Can you follow my voice? Nathanael asked.
No, we’re pinned! Something is holding us down! Selina answered.
Don’t move then. I’ll try to reach you! Nathanael replied as he tried to push through the tempest in her mind. He then called to Harry, Hold on to me my boy! This is the most dangerous telepathic tempest I’ve ever encountered!
Harry’s mind braced itself and he said aloud, “I got you.”
Keep calling, Princess! I’ll try to reach you! Nathanael called out again.
No, dad! Don’t! You’ll never make it! Selina begged. Get out of here! You won’t be able to stand the power!
Nathanael nevertheless pushed forward as any loving parent would when their child was in danger. Lord, please help us, he thought, closing in on her position. Just as Hannibal and Selina became visible, the power of the maelstrom became too much, violently expelling Nathanael from her mind. He flew across the room and crashed into the wall as if he’d touched a high-voltage power line. Harry crumbled at the same moment, falling to the floor. Nathanael immediately broke contact with Harry’s mind as he lay on the floor panting heavily. Harry sat there for a few moments with a bit of confusion that quickly dissipated. “It was too strong!” Nathanael panted. “I couldn’t get to her!”
Harry dragged himself to his feet and stumbled over to get a close look at Selina and Hannibal. Selina had ceased rocking, but she continued to moan softly with her eyes less glazed than they were earlier. The glaze in Hannibal’s eyes had lessened also and he was starting to stir just a little. “I think you reached them,” Harry said wearily. “They’re beginning to respond a little.”
Nathanael dragged himself to the bed and hauled himself up so he could see. “I hope it was enough. I was able to contact her but I couldn’t reach her. One thing I did see. Their minds are completely merged right now. They’re together in there. That’s a good sign. At this point the only thing left to do is pray,” Nathanael said. “Thanks for your help. If you hadn’t been there for backup, I would have been swept up in what they’re experiencing and would have ended up like them. I’m just not the telepath that she is. Much of her skill she got from her mother.”
Harry put his hand on Nathanael’s shoulder and said wearily, “You were able to reach them. Your strength and courage has already helped this situation. I don’t know about you, but whatever you did to me drained my strength like a glass of water. I can barely hold myself up.”
Nathanael cracked a weary smile. “I had to use some of your strength in order to penetrate the storm,” he stated. “Without it, I would have been blown away. I’m sorry that I had to use so much of it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Harry replied. “It was well worth the risk. They’re family. Besides, it was fascinating having you inside my head like that. It’s a completely new experience for me.” Harry saw a chair in the corner and stumbled to it, slumping heavily into it. “I think I’ll just sit here for a while,” he murmured.
“You do that. I’m going to stay right here,” Nathanael said as he sat on the floor, leaning against the side of the bed. Within minutes, Harry’s exhaustion from the experience had him fast asleep in the chair. Nathanael’s strength had likewise been drained so he found himself nodding off. As he nodded off, he would catch himself, trying to shake off the exhaustion. This happened several times. Just before the exhaustion finally won out, he noticed that Selina wasn’t moaning any longer and her eyes were closed. Hannibal’s eyes were likewise closed. Oh Lord, I hope we were able to do some good, he thought as he passed out leaning against the bed.
Two hours later, Dan, Jerry Cynthia, and Mary barged into Hannibal’s quarters after getting no answer from the door. “This isn’t good,” Dan stated as they made their way back to the bedroom. They found Hannibal and Selina fast asleep on the bed. Harry sat snoring in the chair and Nathanael sitting on the floor leaning against the bed, also asleep.
“What happened here?” Jerry asked as Mary immediately went to Harry and gently shook him. Harry jumped with a start as he woke, looking into Mary’s face. Dan and Jerry went to Nathanael and proceeded to shake him gently in order to wake him as Cynthia examined both Selina and Hannibal.
Nathanael slowly came to and Dan asked with some concern, “What happened? Were you able to find out anything?”
Cynthia suddenly spoke up, saying, “It appears they are going to be all right. They’re asleep now.”
Nathanael shook himself, trying to dispel the drowsiness. “It’s incredible,” he said softly. “They’re linked at a far deeper level than I ever imagined. It appears that Hannibal had a massive discharge of information from what he received from the Teacher. Selina risked all and made telepathic contact with him while it was going on and they were caught together in a deep merge the likes of which I’ve never encountered before. The information has seemingly cemented them together telepathically and entrapped them. I tried to reach her but was unable to. Had it not been for Harry’s assistance and strength, I wouldn’t have gotten as close as I did to them. The amount of knowledge that is swirling around in their heads is staggering. There’s no telling what will come from this.”
“So how long will they be like this?” Dan probed.
“It’s hard to tell,” Nathanael admitted. “They could come out of it in a few minutes, or a few hours or days or never. It’s just so hard to actually say how long this sort of thing could last since we’re dealing with the after-effects of highly advanced technology.”
“But you know something,” Harry added. “I don’t believe they’re lost to this. The Lord as allowed this to occur for some reason that only He knows. Hannibal has a tremendous task ahead of him and I don’t believe the Lord is going to allow His man to taken out before that task is even begun.”
Nathanael shook his head knowingly as he slowly rose from the floor. He stumbled briefly and Dan and Jerry caught him as he fell, helping him to his feet. “You’re right, Harry,” Nathanael replied. “This incident isn’t going to be the end of them. We just need to give them time. The Lord will bring them out when He deems the time’s right.”
“Shouldn’t someone stay with them?” Mary asked.
“Yeah…someone should stay,” Dan agreed. “Who’s it going to be?”
“I’ll stay,” Harry volunteered. “Nathanael is the only one with the knowledge to finish the preparations for the expedition. Go. I’ll watch over them.”
Nathanael’s expression narrowed. “Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes, go on. Things must be ready for the expedition. That’s what Hannibal would want,” Harry stated.
Nathanael realized that Harry spoke the truth. “So be it,” he replied. “We’ll be ready on time. You let me know the moment they come out of it.”
“That I will,” Harry answered.
“I’m going to stay too,” Mary said. “Just for a little while.”
Nathanael acknowledged it. “Okay people,” he said. “We’ve got work to do.” He started to move toward the door and collapsed to the floor.
Once again, Dan and Jerry caught him. “Looks like you need a little recharge. Come. Let’s get you to Station One,” Dan observed.
“Yes, looks like it,” Nathanael agreed. “I must have taken a worse beating than I thought. Watch over them, Harry.”
Harry nodded as he sat there in the chair, still considerably weak from the incident. Dan and Jerry led Nathanael out of the room. Cynthia walked over to Harry and asked, “Are you all right?”
“Yeah…I think so. Nathanael sapped much of my strength in what he did. It still feels so weird to have that kind of contact,” Harry said. “I’ve never had someone use telepathy on me like that before.”
“Do you want anything to eat?” Cynthia asked. “It may help to restore your strength.”
“Yeah…that would be nice. But at the moment, I barely have the strength to even raise my arm,” Harry informed.
“We’ll bring you something. Mary, would you care to help me with that?” Cynthia asked. Mary nodded and they left the room, leaving Harry in the chair with Hannibal and Selina out cold on the bed.
Harry’s mind reeled because of what he had just experienced. Bits and pieces of what Nathanael endured slowly exploded into his consciousness and then faded away in a matter of seconds. He tried to make sense of it, but was unable to do so. What on Earth did that thing do to you, Hannibal? he thought. He suddenly found himself overcome with drowsiness and was soon fast asleep again.
Deep in the depths of Selina and Hannibal’s mind, the maelstrom of knowledge raged. She and Hannibal sat together, hemmed in on all sides by the sheer power and brutality of the download. Hannibal lay in Selina’s lap with her arms around his chest as she tried to protect his mind from the onslaught of the download. It seared and charred them as the information tried to find an outlet. She called to Hannibal and shook him, doing her best to shield him. Hannibal! Hannibal! You have to help me! We can get out of here if you help me! I can’t do it alone, she pleaded. His mind remained paralyzed by the download, unable to respond. She begged and pleaded with him, shaking him. Oh Lord…How can this be? Am I to lose him in this? I thought it was your will that we be together. Now it appears that you’re willing to take him from me. Why? Why’re you allowing this? He’s my life because you made it so. Please do not let him die! Take me instead. You chose him from before the foundations of the universe not just to be my soul mate but also to be your man in this black day! Take me and not him! she prayed fervently. Do not abandon us in this abyss! She wept as the maelstrom raged even more, trying to tear their link apart.
Suddenly, Hannibal squeezed her hand and Selina became ecstatic. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you! she exclaimed as she looked into his eyes.
The sparkle of intelligence had returned to Hannibal’s eyes as he looked up into her eyes. You came for me. You risked everything and came for me, Hannibal said telepathically.
Selina embraced him as he lay in her lap, responding, I had to. We’re forever linked, soul mates. I couldn’t just let you die, not after discovering how well we’re matched and need each other. Is this storm part of what the Teacher did to you?
Yes, Hannibal replied. This is the sum of all the knowledge the machine imparted to me. This storm, however, is not as severe as it was when I first got caught in it at the machine. We just have to wait it out. There is no other way of dealing with it.
How long will it take? Selina asked.
It shouldn’t be long now. It appears that the storm is subsiding now, Hannibal answered. We’ll lose most of this information to our subconscious minds when we come out of this. It’s hard to tell what we’ll retain once this passes.
Selina believed him and hugged him tightly, refusing to let go of him. The maelstrom seemed to rage on forever as they clung to each other. Then a strange light suddenly shined round about them and the storm dissipated as suddenly as it had come, freeing their minds from their prison.
Selina sat straight up on the bed in an instant with a deep gasp. Her eyes looked around wildly as she realized that she was free and awake. Her gaze fell on Harry, asleep in the chair and she knew it was over. She was no longer a prisoner in her own mind. She then realized that her telepathic contact with Hannibal was still intact and much, much stronger than she believed. She tried to break contact but found that she could not. Selina panted heavily as every fiber of her being tingled. She looked at Hannibal and called to him telepathically Wake up. It’s over. At first, he did not reply and a little pang of fear rose in her heart. She nudged him with her hand and called again telepathically Wake up! Wake up, my prince! We’re through it.
Hannibal abruptly opened his eyes and sat up with a start, gasping for air. After he caught his breath, he gazed into Selina’s eyes and thought, You came for me. At that, they embraced each other passionately.
I will always come for you, Selina answered telepathically. There seems to be a strange side effect to what we’ve just experienced.
What’s that? Hannibal thought.
I’m unable to break my telepathic link to you. It’s almost as if our minds have been fused together. It’s totally strange, Selina answered telepathically.
“You mean to say our minds are permanently linked?” Hannibal questioned aloud.
“Apparently,” Selina answered. “I have heard of this happening before, but not like this.”
“How so?” Hannibal asked.
“Merges can happen in degrees,” Selina explained. “This morning, we merged on a moderate scale so we could share our memories. I’ve heard of times when soul mates go through a deep merge where their minds are permanently linked telepathically to one another on every level. It’s an extremely rare event because of what it means: they know everything about their mates, their hopes, dreams, and fears…all of it, even where they are physically. From what I remember of the research I did on it while on Kaitia, those who end up with this kind of connection seemed to be destined to be together and each is willing to give their life for the other.”
Hannibal knew what she was saying was the truth. You were ready to die in my place in order to save my life. I heard your prayer. You were willing to lay your head on the block so I could be spared, he thought.
“Yes,” Selina replied, smiling as she caressed his cheek. “I’ll always come for you, even at the risk of my own life. We now are apparently permanently connected by an unbreakable bond. We’ll be able to know and feel what the other is feeling. It’ll be a blessing and a curse, being that our contact seems to be fused together now. We’ll be able to share not only knowledge but every little thing the other experiences, maybe even pain and pleasure.”
“This is deep,” Hannibal said as he flopped down on the bed. “I’m at a loss for words. I’m now literally closer to you than anyone on the face of Earth could be to another person. It’s totally bizarre. By the way, how do you feel physically? I feel like I’ve just been run through a mill. My strength is practically nonexistent. I barely have strength enough to sit up.”
Selina laid down next to him, laying her head on his shoulder. “The same is true here,” she replied. “I’m absolutely exhausted. I feel like I’ve been awake for three weeks straight. I could use a long cat nap.”
“Me too,” Hannibal agreed. “Maybe we should just rest here a while.”
Selina smiled and nodded in agreement, cuddling close to him. “Maybe we should wake Harry,” she suggested.
“No, let him sleep. I vaguely seem to remember him and your father doing something to reach us. Exactly what it was, I’m not sure,” Hannibal said. “Do you have any recollection of anything like that?”
“Yes, I do but it is very vague. I seem to remember hearing dad calling to me but that is about it,” Selina said with a sigh. She began to purr softly and within minutes, they were both fast asleep, arm in arm.
Mary came in and saw Harry asleep in the chair. She shook her head sympathetically and then looked over to the bed, seeing Selina and Hannibal fast asleep in each other’s arms. Mary instantly noticed that this was a change from earlier and walked over to Harry. She gently shook him and he gradually came to. “What is it?” Harry asked.
“Look; I think it’s just about passed,” Mary replied, pointing to the bed.Harry immediately noticed that Hannibal and Selina lay arm in arm rather than side by side. “Oh great; they must have come out of it while I was asleep,” Harry growled with irritation for missing the moment. He rose from the chair and went to the bed, looking the situation over. They were sound asleep as if nothing had happened. Selina purred softly and Hannibal snored quietly. “I think you’re right. It looks like the worst is passed,” Harry agreed. “Let’s leave them be.” Mary nodded in agreement and they left the bedroom.