Into the Unknown
Three hours later, Hannibal, Selina, Nathanael, and Harry stood in the portal chamber ready to go. They were dressed for cool weather, armed with knives, pistols, and automatic rifles. They carried backpacks loaded with clothes, food, ammunition, and tents. Hannibal wielded an HK-91 with a telescopic scope. Harry carried with a MP-5 sub machine gun while Selina packed an Uzi. Nathanael sported a 300-magnum Winchester sniper rifle slung over his pack. The portal lay open to the hangar, which was overgrown with thick forest growth.
“So Dan…what’re we walking into?” Hannibal asked as his team gathered around Dan at the portal control console.
“The airfield is a wreck,” Dan declared. “It looks like there was one hell of a battle there some years ago. All that’s left is craters and burned out equipment outside the hangar. The hangar itself seems to be structurally sound, but is in a state of accelerating decay. The forest is trying to reclaim the hangar with some pretty large trees growing out of the main bay where we set up the camp with laser perimeters and sensor-operated machine pistols. Believe it or not, there are four vintage PT-47 Thunderbolt fighters still sitting in the hangar.”
“What’re they?” Selina asked.
“PT-47s are World War II era American-made prop fighter planes,” Hannibal explained. “What kind of condition are they in?”
“They’re just rusting hulks now,” Dan stated. “They flew their last sorties long ago. I seriously doubt their engines would even turn over, much less get off the ground.”
“What about their guns?” Harry queried.
“The planes didn’t have any kind of ammunition in them,” Dan answered. “Moreover, the guns themselves have rusted solid. I’m guessing it’s because of the exposure to the elements when the hangar ceiling collapsed. One of them actually was crushed beneath the roof when it fell in.”
“Okay,” Harry replied.
“Did you see anything out of the ordinary?” Hannibal asked.
“The place has the feel of being abandoned,” Dan stated. “But we saw evidence of some recent activity in the hangar and on the airfield. Heavy truck and jeep tracks were found outside that couldn’t be more than a few days old. Furthermore, I noticed inside the hangar that the dirt and debris on the floors had been brushed as if someone had tried to cover up some kind of activity there. It was subtle, but there.”
“Hmmm,” Hannibal murmured, rubbing his chin with his hand. “The plot thickens. Anything else I should know about?”
“Just the bird-eating spiders that have nested in the office space,” Dan stated. “The halls were full of web and we killed several of those spiders securing the office areas and hall. They’re about a third as big as the giant tarantulas of the rain forests.”
Nathanael’s eyebrow rose. “Bird-eaters…I didn’t think they existed that far south,” he commented.
“They don’t,” Hannibal stated. “But it doesn’t mean that someone didn’t accidentally or purposely introduce them into the area. We’ll be sure to watch for them. Did they show any sign of moving into the main hangar where you set up our camp?”
“No,” Dan replied. “They stay in the darkness of the office block and halls. We didn’t find any webs outside the office block that I saw.”
“Good,” Hannibal stated with an added sigh. “I’m not particularly fond of big spiders after what we found here in Tiamat, but if they stay away from us, we’ll have nothing to worry about. Is everything set on the other end?”
“Just waiting for you, Hannibal,” Dan reported. “The perimeter is set, but is down right now. You’ll have to arm it when you get there. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“No,” Hannibal replied, patting Dan on the shoulder. “Just pray…that’s all.”
“You got it,” Dan answered warmly.
As Dan explained everything to the team, Mary and Dennis approached with Chris, Jerry, and Cynthia. Harry noticed their approach and stepped off to say good-bye to Mary and Dennis. He embraced his wife as Mary said, “Please come back to me.”
“I plan to, Mary,” Harry replied. “I’ll always come for you and Dennis.” He hugged his son, saying, “I want you to watch out for your mother while I’m gone. Can you do that?”
Dennis nodded. “Could you bring me something back, dad?” he asked.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Harry replied, chuckling. “But only if you’re a good boy.”
“I’ll be good,” Dennis chimed. “I promise.”
“I know you will,” Harry said pleasantly, rubbing his hand through Dennis’ hair.
“If it isn’t too much trouble, could you please bring my husband back in one piece?” Mary asked Hannibal as she embraced him.
“I’ll bring him back to you. I promise,” Hannibal replied, looking her in the eye.
“Thank you,” Mary replied, hugging Hannibal again. “I’ll hold you to that.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to do otherwise,” Hannibal declared with a smile.
Within minutes, they finished all the good-byes. Hannibal cast an eye at the portal with a sober expression. A deep sigh escaped his lips as he looked back to his team and those gathered in the portal chamber.
“What’s wrong?” Selina asked, sensing a bit of hesitation and fear in him.
“This is always the hardest part,” Hannibal declared, “taking that first step into the unknown. A very wise Chinese philosopher named Lao-Tzu said long ago that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step...or something to that effect. Our first step through the portal is going to move us ten thousand miles in an instant and deposit us on the hitherto unknown Path of the Ancients leading to Amacia. It takes us into unknown forests, cannibal territory, and into the mountains in more than one way. The unknown is a bitter nemesis I face every day and at times, it becomes almost unbearable. But thank God I have good friends and family to help me bear that burden.”
Selina latched onto Hannibal’s arm and kissed him on the cheek. “And we will be right beside you as you face this unknown. You no longer need to face it alone.”
“I know,” Hannibal murmured.
Nathanael patted Hannibal on the shoulder. “This Lao-Tzu was indeed a wise man, as you are, my son,” Nathanael stated. “A wise cat of my planet once said that the cat that is humble and faces fear conquers not only him or herself, but the world around them. The unknown is just another barrier to be crossed in the never-ending quest for knowledge and life. We’re with you, Hannibal, to whatever end this unknown has in store for us.”
Harry grabbed Hannibal’s right hand and forearm in a legionnaire’s handshake. “Let’s do this,” Harry insisted. “I’m with you all the way.”
Hannibal smiled, feeling his hesitation lift with the support of his teammates. “Well…as they say, no guts not glory,” he declared. “Are you ready to face the great unknown?” Hannibal asked his team, who answered yes. “Very well; once more into the hideous maw of the unknown we go. Wish us luck. We’ll be in touch,” he called out to those being left behind. They gave a resounding good luck as Hannibal, Nathanael, Harry and Selina went through the portal to the hangar in Argentina without another word.
“Godspeed, my friends,” Dan murmured as he shut the portal from his position at the control console. “May the Lord guide your steps in the days to come.”A resounding amen rose from the other as they left the portal chamber, going back to their research of the enigmatic mystery of Tiamat while Hannibal and his team plunged into the dark unknown in search of the mysterious Path of the Ancients that’ll lead them into the wilds of the Amacian underworld to face their destiny.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Robert_DowningWrite a Review