At about midnight, Hannibal awoke abruptly in his tent. Selina lay sound asleep beside him on her side, facing him. She was in close, purring softly with her arm draped over his chest. Hannibal lay there a few moments wondering why he had suddenly awakened. He heard Harry and Nathanael changing the watch and suddenly decided to get up. He gently pushed Selina’s arm aside and got up slowly so as not to wake her. He sat there for a few moments, looking at the shadows the moon cast on the tent. Something didn’t feel right as he saw the moonlight dancing on his tent. Slipping on his pants over his sweats along with his shoes, Hannibal went out of the tent. He looked around and saw the newcomers lying sound asleep. He walked through the camp with a growing uneasy feeling.
Nathanael suddenly appeared from around one of the planes. “Hannibal…what’re you doing up?” he asked. “It’s after midnight.”
“I don’t know,” Hannibal said, looking around intensely. “Something’s not right here. I think I’m going to check on the General.” He grabbed a flashlight and a pistol, heading for Gulez’s cell. Nathanael followed him. They checked the door and found it locked. The door had a window with wire in the glass so Hannibal shined the light into the room. After sweeping the room with the flashlight beam a few times, they saw Gulez still tied up and asleep in the far corner under a wire-lined window. “Check the perimeter,” Hannibal ordered. “And keep your eyes open. Something’s going on here. I have the distinct feeling we’re being watched.” Nathanael nodded and disappeared out of the hangar to check the extended perimeter.
Hannibal walked back to the camp and looked up at the now full moon shining down through the hole on the hangar roof. A claw-shaped cloud drifted in front of the moon, sending chills down his spine. For a few moments, the moon with the claw-shaped shadow enchanted him with its dark power as he stared at it. The world seemed to become very distant as strange voices and sounds of battle echoed in his ears. The sounds of clashing steel, gunfire, explosions, along with war and death cries filled his skull. Blood seemed to ooze and drip down over the moon, turning it into a bloody skull with enormous fangs glaring at him. Suddenly, he felt something drop on his shoulder, shaking him from the strange vision. He looked and saw one of the smaller palm-sized spiders from the hall sitting on his shoulder, eyeing him calmly. Hannibal froze in frightful surprise as the spider tapped its front legs softly against his shoulder, its fangs quivering. After the surprise wore off, he whispered, “So what’s it going to be? If you’re going to bite me, do so and be done with it. I can’t move fast enough to knock you off before you bite me, though I’d just as soon you not bite. We only sealed up your nest to protect ourselves.”
Nathanael happened to notice Hannibal standing like a statue as he passed by the planes on his circuit of the perimeter. When he saw one of the spiders sitting on Hannibal’s shoulder, he rushed to Hannibal’s assistance. “Don’t be aggressive,” Hannibal called out urgently as Nathanael approached.
“What do you want me to do?” Nathanael asked.
“We need to coax it off my shoulder into something,” Hannibal said softly. “If I move, I know he’s going to sink those fangs into my neck.”
“Okay,” Nathanael stated. “Just don’t move while I find a box or container to put it in.”
“I’m not moving,” Hannibal stated.
Nathanael put his gun down and quickly found a large gallon Tupperware container in the supplies that had once held some of their food rations. He opened it and slowly walked up to Hannibal and the spider. Putting the square container against Hannibal’s shoulder, Nathanael took the top and started to use it as a prod for the spider. “Come on,” Nathanael cooed to the spider. “We’re not going to hurt you. Just get into to box.” When the spider started to turn away from Hannibal’s neck and crawl toward the container, Nathanael purred, “That’s it, buddy. Keep moving. Hannibal’s not a good meal for you. He’s much too tough and stringy.” The odor of the food left in the container attracted the spider and with a little coaxing by Nathanael using the container top, the spider crawled off Hannibal’s shoulder and into the container. Nathanael quickly slapped the top on the container and used his claws to poke a couple of air holes in the top. He sighed deeply as the spider sat motionless in the container. “That was too close,” Nathanael said with great relief.
“You’re telling me,” Hannibal answered, his tone reflecting his relief. “I don’t know why he didn’t just bite the shit out of me.”
“What happened?” Nathanael asked.
“I’m not sure,” Hannibal admitted as he suddenly looked up at the full moon, seeing the claw-shaped cloud still hovering over it. “I looked up at the moon and everything went screwy.”
“What do you mean?” Nathanael asked, seeing the moon with the claw-shaped cloud across its surface.
“I can’t explain it,” Hannibal stated. “When I looked at the moon, it somehow captured me. I couldn’t stop looking at it. The world seemed to fade away and I heard the sounds of battle off in the distance. Then blood dripped over the moon turning it into a demon skull that glared at me. I only came out of it when I felt our little friend there drop on my shoulder. When I came out of whatever had captured me, I saw the spider on my shoulder, looking at me while it tapped its legs against my shoulder. It so startled me I froze until you came back. Thanks for getting that thing off me.”
“No problem,” Nathanael stated. “But I must admit something really strange is happening here. I felt in my bones something wasn’t right earlier and that feeling still hasn’t left. Maybe the spider here is part of that.”
“I don’t know,” Hannibal replied. “It may be part of it, but I don’t think he’s the reason for it. I’d say it’s obvious we missed a few of these smaller ones. Maybe he was out of the nest on an errand when we sealed it up?”
“Could be,” Nathanael admitted. “But we must keep our eyes open for them now that we know for sure a few of them are still on the prowl.” He lifted the clear container and looked at the spider with great curiosity. “I must admit that I’m really pleased we caught a live one. Having a live one could be a great asset in finding out how these spiders came to be,” Nathanael stated.
“Yeah,” Hannibal agreed. “Is it possible that he didn’t bite me because of how cool it is in here tonight?”
“I’d say that may be a valid theory,” Nathanael replied. “It is pretty chilly. Maybe he just dropped on you to have a warm spot to sit. Still, I can sense the critter is pretty calm right now being in this container, which is puzzling after we saw the way the others acted.”
“Is there something metal we can lock him in just to be safe?” Hannibal asked. “I’m sure he could chew his way out of that Tupperware if he decided to.”
“I saw some ammo boxes in the bunker,” Nathanael stated. “I could dump one out and use it.”
“Do it,” Hannibal stated. “I’d feel better if he was locked up like his buddies.”
“I’m on it,” Nathanael stated. “Come on, little buddy. Let’s get you a more secure container so nothing happens to you.” He walked away, heading down into the bunker with a flashlight.
Hannibal shuddered violently after Nathanael vanished into the bunker. “Man, I hate spiders!” he growled, turning his attention to his new recruits. He quickly checked those outside the tents to make sure no spiders had dropped on them, finding none. His attention then turned to Thomas, seeing that his injuries were causing him considerable pain that showed on his face as he slept. A thought suddenly dropped into Hannibal’s mind and he acted upon it. He went back to his tent and retrieved the communicator, calling the Temple.
“Yeah, Hannibal…what can we do for you?” Dan answered through the device.
“I have a guy here with a broken leg and some moderate burns. The leg looks like it’s been set and splinted, but it is hurting him pretty badly. Do we have something at the Temple that can help him without having to take him to the healing chambers?” Hannibal inquired.
“Hmmm…I’m not sure,” Dan answered. “I’ll have to check on it. Is there any reason you don’t want to bring him here and have the crystal work directly on him?”
“Well, yes,” Hannibal said. At that, he explained the last twenty-four hours.
“Well…in light of that, I can see your hesitancy in bringing him to the Temple for treatment,” Dan replied. “Let me look into it. I’ll also scrape together some more supplies for you at the same time. With six extra people, you’re definitely going to need some more.”
“Yeah, but don’t send any weapons. We have plenty here,” Hannibal ordered. “Just send some extra food and camping gear. Packs like those that we have will suffice. We’re going to have to remain mobile when we leave the hangar.”
“Do they need any extra clothes?” Dan asked.
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Hannibal answered. He then discussed their approximate sizes with Dan.
“Will that do it?” Dan asked after Hannibal finished.
“Yeah, for now,” Hannibal answered. “Call me when you’re ready. Try not to take too long either because I’d rather they didn’t see the portal as of now. If we can do this while they’re still asleep, it would be a great help.”
“Sure thing, Hannibal,” Dan answered. “I’ll call you within the hour. It shouldn’t take long to gather the supplies and find out what you wanted to know.”
“Good,” Hannibal said as he went out of the tent and looked the camp over, “Oh, by the way, we just caught a live spider, one of the smaller ones. The little shit dropped on my shoulder a few minutes ago and Nathanael managed to coax it into a container without it biting me. It might be useful in your research on the spiders. Nathanael is locking it up in an ammo box for our protection. I don’t think the Tupperware will hold it if it decides it wants out.”
“That’s great,” Dan replied. “Both that you weren’t hurt and that you were able to catch a live one. It’ll make determining where they came from that much easier. I’ll let the staff working on the spiders know.”
“Be sure that you keep it locked down,” Hannibal warned. “We don’t want it getting away in the Temple. Who knows what it may breed with?”
“I hear you,” Dan stated. “We’ll make sure it doesn’t escape. This breed of spider is something we definitely don’t want roaming about.”
“You’ve found something?” Hannibal asked as Nathanael returned from the bunker with a fifty-caliber ammo box that he sat on the table. Seeing Hannibal using the communicator, Nathanael picked up his gun and returned to his sweep of the perimeter.
“Yeah,” Dan stated soberly. “I’ll tell you about it when we bring the equipment. For now, know that these spiders are definitely a genetic manipulation done by the military.”
“I thought as much,” Hannibal growled. “Give me a full report on it when you get here.”
“You got it,” Dan replied. “See you in a bit.”
“Okay,” Hannibal stated, “Over and out.” He shut the communicator off and slipped it into his pocket. Looking back up at the moon, he noticed the claw-shaped cloud had moved on.
A couple minutes later, Nathanael returned from his rounds outside of the hangar. “All clear for now, Hannibal,” he reported. “There’s nothing going on right now out there.”
“Maybe it’s just me,” Hannibal replied, nodding. “But I’ve got this uneasy feeling that I can’t shake. Oh, by the way, I just talked with Dan. He’s going to send us some more packs for the new members of our troupe and pick up the spider we caught. Is it in the ammo box there?”
“Yeah,” Nathanael replied. “He’s in there. I poked some holes in the top of the box to make sure the critter didn’t asphyxiate before he could be studied. By the way, what made you decide to call for extra supplies? That was a really good idea.”
“I just got to thinking that going into the wilds around the mountain without properly equipping our newest members of the team would be folly,” Hannibal stated. “It would also be folly to take someone with a broken leg into that area too so I asked Dan if we had something to fix it with without having to take him to the Temple. You don’t know about such things, do you?”
Nathanael thought for a moment. “I don’t think so,” he replied. “But I’m not sure.” He thought for a few more moments, rubbing his chin while digging deep into his memory. “Wait a minute,” he finally answered. “Wait just one minute. We encountered some strange-looking kits in Station 7, which we didn’t know what they were for. With the kits were small books written in the Stone Language so we took the books to the Library and translated them. They were manuals for the kits. The kits appeared to be some kind of portable first-aid healing kit. In fact, for some strange reason, I decided to bring one along. It’s over here in my pack.” Nathanael went into his tent and came out with a satchel. He and Hannibal pulled a couple of chairs away from around the fire and sat in them near the table with the laptop that controlled the perimeter guns.
“These kits were apparently used by those who had to leave the Temple,” Nathanael explained. He opened the satchel and pulled out a strange box made of electronium with a small crystal embedded in the top. The box itself was engraved with the Stone Language. It had several buttons on the side, which Nathanael proceeded to push. “These strange little kits are apparently a much smaller version of the healing machines run by some peculiar type of batteries,” he stated as he opened the box, revealing a number of small medallions made of pure electronium with small crystals embedded in the center. Nathanael picked one up, showing it to Hannibal, who examined it closely. Not much bigger than a gold doubloon, Hannibal noticed the Stone Language engraved in circular lines around the crystal lying in the middle of the odd medallion.
“Hmmm…the writing seems to be instructions on how to use these things,” Hannibal murmured; reading the Stone Language etched on the medallion.
“That was my conclusion as well,” Nathanael agreed as Hannibal handed the medallion back. Putting the item back with the other medallions, Nathanael showed Hannibal the rest of the kit. In the box with the coin-like medallion lay tubes of ointments, rolls of strange fabric along with some standard tools like scissors, scalpels, and forceps. “This kit appears to be a combination of a standard first-aid kit with a smaller battery-powered version of the healing machine,” Nathanael explained. “Unlike the healing stations where all we have to do is lay on the table to make it work, for this thing to properly work, the wounds have to be cleaned and broken bones have to be set first. That’s why there’s this standard equipment in here. The ointments and bandages are for open wounds. You clean and dress the open wounds, and then you place these little coin-like medals on the body around the site of the wound. Once in place, the healing machine part of this kit will kick in, healing the wound in a fraction of the time it would have to take normally; however, for broken bones, unless it is a compound fracture, you don’t need the ointment or bandages. You merely need to set the break and place the disks on the body where the bones are fractured and it will heal the bones just like the ones in the Temple. These kits are actually very helpful. They work very well for minor and moderate injuries, like Thomas has. It also works on all kinds of diseases, too, according to the manuals we translated.”
“How do these things with the crystals stay on the body? Does it have some kind of adhesive or something?” Hannibal asked.
“I don’t know exactly how it works,” Nathanael replied. “But I do know this...once these things are placed around a wound they will remain there until the wound is healed. You can walk around, jump, play, even fight and they’ll not come off. I know because I have used it a couple of times myself when I got careless at the Temple and hurt myself.”
“So to use it on, say Thomas there, all we have to do is put these things on his leg and leave it at that?” Hannibal queried.
“Pretty much,” Nathanael answered, “The burns will have to be cleaned first, but for the leg all we’d have to do is put the disks on it since they’ve already set it. The only stipulation when using the kit is the case here needs to be close by because it’s this case that powers everything.”
“This is an intriguing development,” Hannibal said. “I didn’t know we had these things.”
“Well, we do and we have it here to help Thomas if that’s what you want to do,” Nathanael said.
“Come on, let’s put this thing to work and see how well it works,” Hannibal said, rising from his chair. Nathanael rose and gathered the kit, following Hannibal over to Thomas, who was covered with a blanket.
At that moment, Arabella came out of her tent, seeing them heading toward Thomas. “What are you doing?” she asked sleepily, walking over to them.
“Ah…just the person I wanted to see,” Hannibal chimed. “How badly is Thomas’ leg broke?”
“It’s not bad,” Arabella reported. “I don’t think it is broken completely through. It could be just a hairline fracture.”
“Where’s it broken that you can determine?” Hannibal asked. By now, her drowsiness had past and she answered, “Just above the knees. Why do you ask that? What’re you going to do?”
“What about his burns?” Nathanael asked.
“He has second degree burns on the same side as his broken leg,” Arabella stated. “Between what I brought and what you had in supplies, I was able to clean and treat the burns. Fortunately, the burns won’t require a skin graph to repair because they don’t cover that much area. What’s this all about?”
“Don’t worry,” Hannibal reassured her. “I’ve just found out that we have a special first-aid kit that will help heal his leg and the burns like the healing machines at the Temple. Apparently, Nathanael’s been holding out on me.” Nathanael chuckled as Hannibal added, “I just wanted Thomas up and around without the burden of a broken leg and those burns weighing him down.”
His word reassured her and Arabella said, “Let me help.”
“All right,” Hannibal said. “Wake him. I don’t want to do it without him knowing.”
Arabella knelt down next to Thomas and he stirred. She gently shook him and said softly in his ear, “Thomas. Wake up. Wake up. I need to check your leg and your burns.”
Thomas slowly woke and saw Arabella kneeling next to him with Hannibal and Nathanael standing behind her. He remained in the twilight zone somewhere between being asleep and awake as he looked up. His leg throbbed painfully and his burns stung as he sleepily asked, “What’s going on?”
Hannibal squatted down in front of him and looked him in the eye. “I believe we have a way to fix that bum leg of yours and take the fire out of those burns, if you’ll let us,” Hannibal stated.
“Sure. But I don’t know how you plan on performing this,” Thomas said dreamily, unsure whether he was awake or still dreaming.
“Trust him, Thomas. He knows what he’s doing,” Arabella said.
“All right…go ahead,” Thomas said with a yawn, throwing the blanket off revealing a full-length splint on his left leg. It also showed bandages covering the burns on his leg, and arm.
“Nathanael…you know how this works, so do it,” Hannibal said as he backed off. Arabella moved aside as Nathanael came forward and knelt down, placing the strange-looking medallions on Thomas’ leg around the apparent source of the complaint. Each time he placed the medallion on his leg, Thomas flinched as it seemingly pulled to his leg like a magnet, causing him a brief flash of pain. Nathanael put four such devices on Thomas’ leg and then had Arabella show his where Thomas’ burns were. He then placed five more disks on the burns and sat the kit’s case down near his head. The crystal in the case began to glow and hum same as the crystal in the healing chamber. The crystals in the medallions glowed, humming in resonance with the crystal on the box, first relaxing his leg first and then the rest of Thomas. The pain from his leg and burns started ebbing away.
“Now just relax, Thomas,” Nathanael instructed. “The kit will do its work without your help. All you need to do is just lay back and rest.”
Nathanael pulled the blanket back over Thomas as he said sleepily, “All right.” Within a minute, he was fast asleep.
“I hope this contraption works,” Arabella murmured, checking Thomas’ vitals.
“It will,” Nathanael assured her as he stood. “It’s already put him to sleep.”
“Go back to bed, Arabella. We have a big day tomorrow,” Hannibal ordered softly. “Nathanael will keep an eye on him.” She nodded and went back to her tent. “Keep your eyes open,” Hannibal told Nathanael.
Just then, the communicator chimed softly and Hannibal pulled it out to answer it. “Yeah?” he answered into the device. He listened for a moment then said as he walked back toward his tent with Nathanael following closely, “Good. We apparently don’t need one because I just found out that Nathanael had already packed one without telling me. We’re using it now on him.” Hannibal listened for a few more moments. “Open the portal behind the aircraft in the far corner,” he said into the communicator. “Nathanael and I will be there to meet you.” He closed the communicator and said to Nathanael, “Follow me.”
Nathanael picked up the ammo box with the spider in it and they walked behind the aircraft. The portal opened as they reached the far corner of the hangar. Four men came through with packs for each of the new members of Hannibal’s expedition. Hannibal pointed out where to leave the packs and they deposited them in a pile next to the supplies. Three of them immediately headed back through the portal, leaving one standing there talking to Hannibal and Nathanael.
While this went on, the sound of footsteps in the camp woke Jonathan. He looked around and saw everyone else sound asleep. He started to fall back to sleep when he heard voices echoing softly through the hangar and noticed a strange glow coming from behind the planes. Feeling uneasy about it and concerned someone may have infiltrated the camp, he rose to investigate. The strange shimmering light seemed to reflect off the aircraft and the walls of the hangar as he silently made his way to the aircraft. Sneaking around the belly of the plane and hiding behind the landing gear, he saw something that he absolutely could not fathom: Hannibal and Nathanael stood there talking to a stranger in front of a weird ring of light seven feet in height that seemed to dance and swirl as if it were liquid. The translucent center of the ring shimmered like a membrane. He thought he saw movement inside the ring as if there were some kind of activity on the other side. Jonathan sat there with his pulse racing as fast as his mind, trying to comprehend what he was seeing. “What the hell is this?” he whispered.
Nathanael caught Jonathan’s scent just as he heard Jonathan’s whisper. Looking directly at him, Nathanael called out, “Come on out. It’s no point in hiding back there.”
“Who is it?” Hannibal asked.
“It’s Jonathan,” Nathanael answered.
“Come on over here, Jonathan,” Hannibal called out, waving him over. Jonathan hesitantly stepped out from behind the plane, slowly making his way to them.
“Looks like your secret is out,” Nathanael told Hannibal just before Jonathan reached them. The three of them looked at Jonathan as he stared in fascination and fear at the swirling of the portal.
“What in heaven’s name is this thing?” Jonathan asked bluntly.
“Jonathan…I’d like you to meet Dan. He’s in charge of my people in Sumatra,” Hannibal stated.
Dan reached out and shook Jonathan’s hand. Jonathan grasped his hand and said weakly, “Good to meet you.”
“Same here,” Dan replied. Turning his attention to Hannibal and Nathanael, he added, “I’ll see you later.”
“Make sure our little friend here has a secure environment,” Nathanael ordered, handing Dan the ammo box with the spider in it.
“I have just the place for him,” Dan chimed as he took the box. “Sorry I couldn’t tell you more about the spiders. The computer is still crunching the DNA we took. All we know for certain right now is that these things are some kind of artificial construct.”
“That’s okay,” Hannibal replied. “Let me know when you find out something. I’ll check in one last time before we head out to find the road.”
“We should know something by tomorrow,” Dan stated. “See you guys later.” He stepped through the portal and it vanished without a trace.
Jonathan began to walk around where the portal had stood...his mind racing with all kinds of possibilities. “What was that?” he asked again.
“That, my friend is the portal,” Hannibal replied. “It’s how we got here without anyone knowing about it. It allows me to go just about anywhere, any time. It’s the ultimate in travel.”
“But how did you find such a thing?” Jonathan asked.
“Remember earlier this evening when we were talking, how I told you there was some things I didn’t want to share with you then because I wasn’t sure whether we could trust you?” Hannibal asked. Jonathan nodded as Hannibal led him back to the camp. Nathanael suddenly disappeared into the night to check the perimeter again. “Well, the portal is part of that story. I was hoping that I could keep it from you all as long as possible not just for the sake of my people, but also for you. It’s very powerful technology; technology the masters of the universe will kill to get their mitts on. I didn’t want you all to be dragged into that conflict. That’s my fight, not yours,” he explained.
Jonathan began to understand. “Yes, I can see now,” he replied. “That’s how Nathanael and Selina came here from the other side of the galaxy, isn’t it?”
“You’re quite bright,” Hannibal said, impressed with Jonathan’s deduction. “Yes, it is. I actually rescued them from the jaws of certain death with it.”
“But it’s not something made by humans, is it?” Jonathan suggested.
Hannibal sighed. “Apparently not,” he admitted. “I just happened to encounter that machine in Sumatra on my most recent archaeological project. It sits in a complex that’s obviously older than recorded human history. Humans may have used it at some point in the past as I do now, but they have absolutely no claim on its construction.”
“You have to tell my brother and friends about this. They have a right to know. Do Morrison and Arabella know about it?” Jonathan asked.
“Yes, they do,” Hannibal replied as they reached the center of the camp where everyone was still asleep. “It’s rather pointless to ask you to keep this under your hat, isn’t it?”
“They have a right to know,” Jonathan insisted. “You talk about trusting us. Well, we need a demonstration of that on your part, too. We’re part of this now whether you like it or not. We’re not going to turn on you…not now.”
Hannibal sighed and nodded. “Very well,” Hannibal conceded. “Since you have seen this much, I’ll tell you and your friends about it in the morning. How does that sound?”
“Fair enough,” Jonathan said as he resumed his place at the fire, “in the morning then.”
“Yes, in the morning; I promise,” Hannibal said as he returned to his tent. He removed his shoes, tossing them aside as he laid down in the sleeping bag beside Selina, thinking, Is this a good idea, Lord? Did you wake him up just so you could make a point to me? He laid there and slowly drifted off to sleep, pondering yet another strange turn of events.