Legends of Amacia: Path of the Ancients

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A New Threat

Early the next morning just after sunrise, a soldier entered a large brick building in the center of town: the central office building for the province. He went up to the fourth floor and headed to a door at the end of the hall with three stars on it, going in. The room was a thirty foot square with a large panel window on one wall providing a view of the town. A huge mahogany desk with Argentinian military flags and paraphernalia around it lay in front of the window. Behind the desk sat a large executive-type leather chair with someone sitting in it facing out the window. A large map of Argentina and the Mendoza province hung on one wall. Filing cabinets lined the opposite wall. A number of decorative and ceremonial swords hung on the wall above the filing cabinets while a large plaque containing numerous military medals sat on top of those filing cabinets. The soldier fearfully approached the desk and saluted as he said, “Sir.”

The chair swiveled around revealing a man nearly seven feet tall wearing a general’s uniform with three stars on his sleeve. The General was Latino and had the build of a football player with short, coarse black hair, bushy eyebrows, and a thin mustache. He emanated great strength and hostility that matched his extremely menacing countenance. “What happened to my weapons?” he snarled.

“It appears to be Morrison again, sir,” the soldier reported fearfully. “He attacked the convoy on the way to the airfield and destroyed everything.”

The General sat back in his chair as daggers flew from his eyes at the soldier. “Morrison,” he growled. Without warning, the General slammed his fist down on the desk in rage, roaring, “Why hasn’t he been eliminated? He’s just one man!”

“He’s a ghost, sir,” the soldier said, literally shaking in his boots. “When we think we have him, he vanishes. I suspect that someone is helping him.”

“Then find these vermin who’re helping him and get rid of them!” the General barked savagely. “He’s making a mockery of me and I won’t have it! Has the bunker been compromised?”

“Not that I know of, sir,” the soldier answered.

“Do you know for sure?” the General asked pointedly.

“No, sir,” the soldier answered.

“Then find out!” the General snapped. “I paid a great price for those VX warheads and the spiders. They’re the key to my plans. Secure them and the bunker, and then catch this renegade along with the vermin who are assisting him. Bring me their heads.”

“Yes, sir,” the soldier replied instantly.

“Now, get out of my sight!” the General raged. The soldier beat a hasty retreat from the office. The General rose from his seat as his rage boiled over. “God damned incompetent morons!” he bellowed, overturning his desk. “I’m surrounded by fucking useless idiots! Years of planning are being undermined by one little pest they can’t catch; god damn it! I have to get this pest out of my hair and I think I know how. These pathetic worthless peasants will tell me what I want to know or else.”

Later that morning, Hannibal awoke in the bed where Arabella and Peter had laid him. His head throbbed and his side ached. He slowly sat up and hung his legs over the side of the bed, gently holding his broken ribs. Immediately, he noticed that his head, chest, and back were bandaged, and he was missing his shirt. Looking around, he saw another bed in the room, which was empty, though it appeared as if someone had slept in it. “Hello,” he called out weakly. When he received no reply, Hannibal rose and slowly walked out of the room into the examination room. Finding it vacant, he began to search the house.

Hannibal moved into the hall and heard voices coming from a room on the far end. He briefly leaned against the wall, stifling a surge of pain in his ribs before staggering down the hall in the direction of the voices. The sound of several people talking echoed from a doorway on the left, prompting Hannibal to enter it. He paused for a second, leaning against the doorjamb as he surveyed the kitchen. Harry, Arabella, and Morrison sat around the table, talking. Arabella noticed him first, jumping to her feet. “Oh, you’re awake,” she chimed, rushing to his assistance. “Please, come in and have a seat while I get you something to eat.” Arabella guided Hannibal slowly to the table, sitting him down gently in a chair next to Harry. She then quickly put some eggs and grits on a plate along with a glass of orange juice before Hannibal.

“Where am I, Harry?” Hannibal asked.

“You’re in a small house just outside of the town we left to scout,” Harry reported. “Apparently, it’s the clinic for the poor people of this town who can’t afford the hospital.”

“I’m Arabella Bishop and this is my house, Hannibal Smith,” Arabella said formally as she sat down opposite of him. “John brought you here because I’m a doctor. I treated your wounds yesterday. You were banged up pretty badly. The Lord was definitely watching out for you yesterday.”

Hannibal remained in a fog about what had happened and Harry noticed it. Therefore, while Hannibal ate, Harry refreshed Hannibal’s memory about the events of the previous day. Hannibal listened intently to Harry, finding his strength returning rather quickly as he ate.

“So…would you care telling us where you come from and why you’re here in Argentina?” Morrison inquired. “Your friend here says you’re on an archaeological expedition. I didn’t know there was anything around here that would interest archaeologists. This is literally a backwater in Argentina. It’s probably why General Gulez chose this area as his staging ground because of its remote nature. That way, no one would notice what he’s doing.”

Hannibal remained tight-lipped for a few moments. A wry smile crossed his lips. “It may be a backwater, but it has some very significant archaeological remains that have escaped notice for a very long time,” he chimed. “I’d tell you more except that I’m not sure that you’re trustworthy. You were the one who attacked us without provocation.”

“And for that I sincerely apologize,” Morrison replied emphatically. “You stumbled into an ambush meant for that armored column going to the airfield. Had I known you were not with the General, I would’ve let you pass. But then you may have ran into that convoy and most likely been summarily executed just for being here. No one except army personnel are allowed on the road to the airfield. You see, General Gulez has taken this whole area and the airfield as his own private country. He does not like anyone messing in his business.”

“It wasn’t our intention to mess in his business,” Hannibal declared, “or in yours. But it seems we’ve gotten tangled in your little contest with this General. That’s why I hesitate to tell you more. I can’t have the masters of the universe know what I’m doing…not yet.”

“You must believe me when I say that no one to my knowledge knows what’s happening here,” Morrison said. “The civil war that’s raging here has been buried by the powers that be for over a year. There are war crimes being committed in Argentina by these factions, which include the General. The people are suffering because of the war. The world has to know what’s going on here, but no one seems to see or care about what’s happening here.”

“Hmmm….interesting,” Hannibal murmured, “but still not enough.”

“Hannibal,” Harry intruded. “I understand your reluctance to share, but I think these people need to know. John did get us here where we could get badly needed medical attention to make up for his blunder. He could have just left us to die. And Arabella did help us with her medical expertise. I think we should give them a chance.”

“Is your gut telling you this?” Hannibal queried.

“Yes,” Harry replied, “and my gut instincts are seldom wrong. You know that.”

Hannibal nodded, acknowledging Harry’s point. “All right,” Hannibal said softly, “since my own instinct is saying something similar, I’ll let you two in on what we’re doing here. But you can’t tell anyone else about this, not a living soul.” Morrison and Arabella swore they would not tell a soul. At that, Hannibal began to lay out where he came from and where he was going. They listened as Hannibal laid out the parameters of the expedition and who were involved. He told them how the governments of the world wanted his head on a plate. In his sharing, he revealed only what he deemed was necessary to explain the expedition. It took a couple of hours for him to deliver the details. As he finished informing Arabella and Morrison what he was doing in Argentina, they heard a persistent loud banging coming from the back door.

Arabella rose and went to see who it was. She opened the door and Peter staggered in, collapsing on the floor showing signs of a severe beating. “Peter! What in heaven’s name happened?” Arabella cried out as she caught him. She sat him on the floor as everyone gathered around.

“We’re found out,” Peter wheezed. “You have to flee now, Arabella. Gulez knows we’ve been hiding and helping John. They’re searching house to house now, interrogating and killing anyone they find.”

Morrison cursed and Harry’s communicator chimed. Harry pulled it out and said, “Yes, Nathanael. What is it? We’re having a little crisis here.” Harry listened intently and his face fell, saying, “I’ll put Hannibal on. Tell him what has happened.”

Harry handed the communicator to Hannibal and he said, “Talk to me.” He listened carefully to what Nathanael said and his face fell as well. “Shit!” Hannibal cursed. “We’ll be along as quickly as possible. Conceal of the bodies and break out the hardware down in the hole. Set up a perimeter around the hangar. Keep your guard up. They’ll be back. I’m sure of it.” He snapped the communicator shut and cursed again.

“What’s wrong?” Morrison asked.

“A small squad of soldiers showed up at the airfield and attempted to penetrate the hangar,” Hannibal explained. “Our perimeter guns mowed them down before they could react; however, one got away. Our friends did manage to stay hidden though. Therefore, we can expect another visit. That stash of heavy weapons and VX we found in the hangar must have belonged to the General you’re talking about.”

“What?” Morrison blurted out. “Did you say VX?”

“Yeah,” Harry answered grimly. “We found a secret bunker beneath the hangar filled with all kinds of heavy weapons, including a crate with eight VX warheads. We neutralized the warheads to eliminate that problem.”

“But that’s not our immediate problem right now,” Hannibal declared as Arabella cradled Peter in her arms

Peter coughed out blood while clinging to Arabella. “You have to leave now,” Peter wheezed. “Flee for your life. I’m sure I was followed. For the love of God, flee!” He suddenly slumped and he exhaled for the last time, expiring in Arabella’s arms.

“Peter…Peter!” Arabella cried, shaking him but knowing that he was gone. Tears flowed as she hugged him. “He was my friend. He wouldn’t harm a fly,” she cried. “Why would anyone beat him to death?”

Hannibal’s mind suddenly jumped into overdrive as he considered the ramifications of what he was witnessing. “This place is no longer safe,” Hannibal stated. “You’re a doctor, right?” Arabella nodded sorrowfully. “Gather what you can. We have to get out of here right now. You’re welcome to come with us back to the airfield. One thing is for certain, if you stay here, they’ll kill you just like they killed this poor fellow,” Hannibal said sternly.

“He’s right,” Morrison said as he gently grabbed Arabella’s arm, picking her up. “Let’s get your portable kits and supplies and get out of here.” She was still weeping as Morrison led her away.

“Harry,” Hannibal said. “Pick up this fellow, and take him outside. He’s coming with us too. We’ll give him a proper burial.” Harry nodded and scooped up the dead man, carrying him outside with Hannibal following closely. A couple of minutes later, Morrison and Arabella came out the back door carrying several large satchels of medical supplies and clothes for her. In addition to that, Morrison carried a long leather trench coat, which he handed it to Hannibal. “Do you have a car or truck?” Hannibal asked Arabella as he put on the coat.

“Yes,” Arabella said. “It’s behind the shed.” Everyone followed her behind the shed and saw a tan Chevy Suburban. She quickly unlocked the doors and everyone piled in.

“I’ll drive,” Morrison said, getting behind the wheel. He started the truck and within seconds, they were racing away from town, heading for the airfield. “You have friends at the airfield?” he asked Hannibal.

“Yes,” Hannibal answered as he debated whether to tell Morrison and Arabella about the nature of his friends. Ten minutes later, they reached the meadow where Morrison had ambushed the convoy. The wrecked vehicles still lay scattered about, but the remains of the soldiers had been removed. Morrison slowed down as he carefully made his way down the hill.

“Why are you slowing down?” Harry asked.

“There are still some land mines in this area,” Morrison answered. “Fortunately, I still remember where they are.” He slowly swerved out of the road and into the meadow, which he drove in for fifty feet before returning to the road. He picked up speed and they sped past the mud hole and log where Harry had been trapped and Hannibal had been wounded. The wrecked ATVs were still there and the log had been pushed aside.

As they drove on, Morrison apologized again. “I’m really sorry you got caught up in our war,” he said. “You should have never become involved.”

“It’s okay,” Hannibal replied. “We just had some faulty intelligence on the area, that’s all. It’s not your fault. Besides, when we found and disposed of those VX warheads, we became part of this conflict.”

“You know it was VX?” Morrison asked.

“Absolutely,” Hannibal replied soberly. “I know what they look like and how they’re made because I’ve handled that shit before. What bothers me is that those warheads were of US manufacture. Apparently, this crazy General has some deep connections to get his hands on weapons like that. I’m just glad we could take those party favors out of play.”

“I’d like to think so,” Morrison agreed. “Still, I wish I could have seen them to prove to myself that Gulez was up to no good.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Hannibal replied. “There’s still more than enough stuff in that bunker to prove that.” Silence fell over the group as Morrison sped toward the airfield.

Hannibal abruptly decided to tell them about the nature of his friends at the airfield. “You should know something about our friends at the airfield,” he said cautiously.

“What about them?” Morrison asked.

“They’re different from us, so don’t be alarmed when you see them. We’re very good friends with them,” Hannibal warned.

“What do you mean ‘different’?” Arabella asked.

“Well, it’s kind of hard to explain. Maybe you should just wait and see. Just don’t be afraid when you see them. They won’t hurt you,” Hannibal explained. Morrison’s eyebrow cocked up with interest as he considered how these friends of Hannibal could be different from them. About a mile from the airfield, Morrison got an idea and he slowed down, turning the Suburban into the bushes.

“What’re you doing?” Arabella asked.

Hannibal suddenly realized what Morrison was doing. “He’s hiding the truck, possibly slowing them down,” Hannibal stated. “How far is the airfield?”

“About a mile,” Morrison said. “If we ditch the truck here, it’ll take them longer to find us. Besides, we can hide our tracks better when we’re on foot.” He stopped the truck and cut it off. Everyone piled out of the truck and Morrison said, “Follow me. The hangar is not far.”

Morrison and Arabella carried the medical satchels and Harry started to remove Peter’s body from the truck when Hannibal said, “Leave him. We’ll come back for him when it’s safe to do so.” Harry nodded and sat Peter’s body up in the seat. He closed the door, following Hannibal, Arabella, and Morrison, who was in the lead.

As Morrison led them through the forest, they approached the hangar from the rear. Hannibal abruptly sensed Selina nearby. He looked up into the tree canopy, but didn’t see her. He looked around intensely as they walked and Harry noticed it. “What is it?” Harry asked.

Hannibal looked around at him and said softly, “It’s Selina. She’s in the trees over our heads.” Harry looked around and saw absolutely nothing.

Glad to see you’re still in one piece, Selina said telepathically to Hannibal.

How far are we from the hangar? Hannibal responded telepathically.

Oh, it’s about fifty yards. Be careful though. We have already set the perimeter guns up, Selina responded while flitted through the trees.

Thanks for the heads up, Hannibal thought. He suddenly pressed forward and said, “Watch yourselves…the perimeter has been set.”

“How do you know that?” Morrison asked.

“It’s hard to explain right now,” Hannibal said. “Just trust me. My friends have set the perimeter with sensor-operated machine guns.”

“All right,” Morrison answered. “How’re we supposed to get through?” Just then, they all heard a rustling in the trees over their head as they came within twenty yards of the perimeter. Everyone looked up and Hannibal smiled, knowing it was Selina. Morrison and Arabella stopped in their tracks as they looked around, knowing something was there.

“We’re being followed,” Morrison declared. “Someone or something is out there. I can feel it.”

Hannibal step up between Morrison and Arabella and put his hands on their shoulders. “You’re right,” Hannibal said. “We’ve been followed for the last five minutes.”

Morrison turned with surprise on his face and asked, “How do you know that?”

Hannibal called out, “Selina! Show yourself! These are friends.” Then to Morrison and Arabella, he said, “Do not be alarmed. We have been shadowed by one of my closest associates, and I will state again, she’s unlike any person you’ll ever see.”

Hannibal looked up as the trees rustled and they all saw something large scampering effortlessly through the treetops coming toward them. Hannibal and Harry smiled as they watched Arabella and Morrison’s reaction. They watched the being move through the trees with the agility of a monkey and the speed and grace of a cat. As she approached, they began to notice her feline appearance and Arabella latched onto Morrison’s arm in fear. Selina came to rest on a large limb up about twenty feet and thirty feet away. Morrison and Arabella looked on in shock as they got their first good look at Selina. She sat perched on the limb squatting down and holding on with her claws. “Holy Christ!” Morrison exclaimed. “She’s a cat!”

“That I am,” Selina answered. “My father and I are a very long way from home.” At that, she jumped and somersaulted gracefully as she came down. She landed fifteen feet away with one knee down and one arm holding her up. “That’s so much fun,” she purred as she stood and approached. “The low gravity of this planet makes it so much easier to do that.” Hannibal stepped forward and they embraced. He groaned as she accidentally put pressure on his fractured ribs and she felt it, immediately releasing him. Harry came up behind Arabella and Morrison and coaxed them forward. “Good to see your still in one piece too, Harry,” she purred.

“It may have been different if it hadn’t been for this lady,” Harry replied, referring to Arabella.

Selina noticed their apprehension and slowly approached them. “Don’t be afraid. I don’t bite…at least not today and I certainly don’t bite my friends,” she purred as she stopped in front of them. Both, Arabella and Morrison stood there with their mouths hanging open. Standing before them was a beautiful giant bipedal cat that looked part human.

Selina slowly extended her hand as Hannibal introduced them, saying, “John, Arabella. This is Selina. As you no doubt have noticed, she isn’t human. That’s why I told you that our colleagues were different.”

Morrison raised his hand and firmly grasped Selina’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you, John; however, next time when you’re planning an ambush, investigate a little if someone comes along that doesn’t belong to the enemy. Blowing them up with a grenade may not be necessary, hmmm?” Selina chided pleasantly.

“How did you know that?” Morrison asked in amazement. It mirrored what Harry had told him the day before.

“Never mind that right now,” Selina said as she reached out to shake Arabella’s hand. “Thank you for treating their wounds, sister. You were a real god-send.”

Arabella stretched out her hand, shaking with fear, and grasped Selina’s hand. Selina gripped it gently but firmly, looking her in the eye as she did. The fear Arabella experienced slowly changed to wonder. “My goodness,” Arabella murmured. “You’re so beautiful.”

“Why thank you,” Selina replied, smiling warmly.

“Now that everyone’s aquatinted,” Hannibal said. “Let’s get to the hangar. That General is no doubt going to be majorly pissed when he finds out that he missed us at the clinic and that we have his weapons stash. Selina, take us through the perimeter.”

Selina pulled out a communicator and said into it, “Dad…lower the perimeter so we can get in.”

A voice returned a few seconds later from the communicator saying, “Come on in. We still have much to do.”

Selina turned to the group and said, “Come on. Follow me.” She led them onto the airfield and once inside the perimeter, Nathanael re-engaged it. Selina led them to the hangar where Nathanael stood outside of the main entrance. Arabella and Morrison looked on in awe as they approached Nathanael’s impressive seven-foot stature.

“That’s Nathanael…the other member of our team,” Hannibal told John and Arabella. “He’s Selina’s father.”

Nathanael watched them approach and sprinted out to meet them. He stopped in front of them. John and Arabella looked up with great astonishment into his face. “I’m Nathanael,” he said, introducing himself. Then to Hannibal, he said, “Looks like you have brought some help. Good. We’re going to need it. We’ve placed the machine guns strategically around the hangar and airfield. I’ve put a number of mines just outside the perimeter where the road comes on the airfield and we’ve prepositioned rockets and machine guns with ammunition around the field. We were just ready to dig some foxholes to hide in. Nothing’s coming in here without a fight. Oh, I forgot to mention it. When we were breaking out the hardware, some of those rockets we found are in fact remote sentry rockets like the machine guns.”

“Really,” Hannibal said, intrigued with the news. “In that case, we’re much better off than I believed.”

“Where’s this stash you keep talking about?” Morrison asked. “I knew Gulez had a weapons cache somewhere out here, but I didn’t know were. I’ve been all over this hangar and never found it.”

Hannibal wagged his head toward the hangar and said, “Come on. I’ll show you. Nathanael, can you, Selina and Harry finished the preparations?”

“You bet,” Nathanael said.

Selina nodded and Harry said, “Sure.”

“Can I help with anything?” Arabella asked.

“Sure. We can use all the help we can get,” Selina replied.

“Let me take those bags in the hangar,” Hannibal said to Arabella, taking the packs she was carrying. Hannibal and Morrison walked to the hangar with the supplies they had brought from Arabella’s house while everyone else began to finish the defensive preparations. Hannibal led Morrison down the hall. “Watch out for the cross-bred bird-eaters. They nested in office four,” he warned as they walked down the hall. “I’m not sure we sealed all of them in. How they got here I don’t know.”

Morrison saw the door to office four sealed with a metal plate and nailed shut from the outside with two blocks of C-4 plastic explosive wired to the door. “Why is this door barricaded and wired with C-4?” he asked.

“That’s where the spider’s nest is,” Hannibal stated.

“What do you mean?” Morrison queried. “What kind of nest would require you to do this?”

Hannibal sighed. “The bird-eaters in this building aren’t just regular bird-eating spiders like those in the rainforests,” Hannibal stated. “These are some genetic crossbreed of the bird-eaters, the giant tarantulas, and something else, making them highly aggressive and territorial. Beyond that door, dozens of spiders are tending a huge nest just like ant or bees would tend to their queen. These spiders are acting communally and have some kind of hive mind. I fear they may be some kind of bioweapon, so we sealed every way into that room. Fortunately, the walls in this office annex are made of cinderblock and the ceilings are steel. Both Nathanael and I were attacked just by looking into the window behind that plate by a guard spider the size of a giant tarantula. I suspect these spiders are deadly to humans if they’re a bioweapon that your General may have something to do with it.”

“I find that a little hard to believe,” Morrison admitted.

“You can believe what you like,” Hannibal retorted. “But I’m not lying to you. The spiders in that room are extremely dangerous. For your own safety, please don’t disturb the door. When we leave here to follow the ancient road to Amacia, I’m burning this place to the ground to destroy both the spiders and the General’s weapons stash.”

“All right,” Morrison conceded as they moved on towards the hangar bay. “I can see you’re serious about these spiders, so I won’t mess with the door.”

“I’m sure there are some of the smaller spiders still lingering out here,” Hannibal stated. “But they didn’t seem nearly as aggressive as the ones around the nest. If you see one and you can dispose of it…don’t hesitate to do so.” As they reached the double doors to the main hangar, one of the smaller spiders dropped in front of them, prompting Hannibal to stop. “Shit!” Hannibal swore. “I wish they wouldn’t do that.”

“Is that one of the spiders you mentioned?” Morrison asked.

“Yes,” Hannibal stated bluntly while the spider sat on the floor, watching them. “These guys are the first ones we encountered here, and are nowhere near as aggressive as the bigger ones.”

“That’s one strange-looking spider,” Morrison admitted. “I’ve been in the rain forests before and seen the giant tarantulas, the bird-eaters, and several other varieties of spider. But I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Hannibal kicked some loose dirt toward the spider and it reared up with its front legs like a Brazilian wandering spider, hissing. “Even these guys can be mean, if you see what I mean,” he stated. With a quick step, Hannibal crushed the palm-sized tarantula under foot. “I really hate spiders,” he added coldly, pushing through the doors into the hangar with Morrison behind him, wondering about the spiders.

Morrison gazed intently at the base camp set up for a few moments as they approach it. “You have quite a set up here,” he complimented. “A lot of money was involved in this.”

“That it was,” Hannibal said as he led Morrison to the center of the camp. “Let’s just say I have connections that allow me to operate autonomously from the masters of the universe, if you know what I mean. You can sit the supplies down anywhere.” Hannibal gently sat the packs he carried down near the other supplies. Morrison dropped his packs where Hannibal did.

“And how did you manage that?” Morrison asked suspiciously.

“Now, now,” Hannibal chided. “That’s on a need-to-know basis and you don’t need to know…yet. We just met.”

“I see your point,” Morrison conceded. “I suppose I’d be reluctant to tell if I were in your position. Now, where did you find the VX?”

Hannibal led him to the trap door and pointed down the stairs. “We found the hardware, including the crate of VX warheads in here,” he reported. Noticing the tunnel lit with electric lights, Hannibal led Morrison down the stairs and into the secret room. As the traversed the tunnel, they noticed C-4 charges along the walls, wired and ready. “Looks like Selina and Nathanael have been busy here. They not only wired the bunker, but installed some lights at the same time,” he commented, stopping just inside the entrance as Morrison explored the bunker.

“I knew it!” Morrison blurted out as he walked around the room, examining the hardware. “Gulez is planning a coup. That’s the only reason to have this kind of weaponry. Where’s the crate with the warheads?”

“I had it removed and disposed of,” Hannibal answered, leading Morrison to a curiously vacant corner of the bunker. “The VX warheads sat here in a crate seven feet long, four feet wide and this high.” Hannibal held his hand four feet off the floor to demonstrate. “The moment I found them, I removed and disposed of those diabolical weapons.”

“And just how did you do that?” Morrison asked. “You have no means of transportation that I saw coming in here. I think you may be pulling my chain.”

“Please, just trust me when I say I had the warheads removed and disposed of,” Hannibal insisted. “If you doubt my means, I suggest you look at Selina and Nathanael. You do know they aren’t human, but an alien species from another planet, don’t you?”

“Well, I’d say that’s obvious,” Morrison agreed hesitantly.

“And if I’m consorting with aliens,” Hannibal continued, “then wouldn’t it follow that I might have access to some advanced technology that would allow me to safely dispose of those warheads?”

“I guess so,” Morrison replied, following Hannibal’s logic. “So you’re implying….”

“I’m implying nothing,” Hannibal said coolly. “I’m just asking you to trust me. When I’m sure I can trust you, I’ll show you how I got rid of those terrible weapons. You must understand I have people depending on me to be discreet. Their lives are depending on me. As a fellow military man, you can understand that, can’t you?”

Morrison sighed and held his hands up in surrender. “All right, all right, Hannibal,” he replied. “I understand what you’re getting at. I’ll take your word on it for now. Besides, you weren’t lying about the rest of what’s here. There’s enough hardware here to do some major damage even without the VX. Did you find anything else besides the VX?”

“Yes,” Hannibal answered. “We also found a half billion dollars in gold and jewels in here. I had it removed for safe keeping.”

“Half a billion in gold and jewels,” Morrison breathed in utter astonishment. “How did Gulez get his grimy paws on that much money?”

“I don’t know,” Hannibal replied. “But that treasure bothered me almost as much as the VX did, so I removed it the same time I removed the VX.”

“It’s where you took the warheads, isn’t it?” Morrison surmised.

“Yeah…sort of,” Hannibal admitted. “Consider it out of the General’s greedy paws like those VX warheads. Once we trust one another, I’ll let you see behind the curtain. But for now, we have bigger problems.”

“You’re right. Once the General realizes his bunker has been compromised, he’ll kill anyone who’s seen it,” Morrison said.

“I don’t have any reason to doubt that,” Hannibal replied, leading Morrison out of the bunker and back to the campsite. “If you doubt my word about the treasure, I’ll prove it. I kept a small sample to take with me as barter items.”

“I’d like to see it,” Morrison declared.

“Wait here,” Hannibal said after they reached the tents. He went into his tent and returned a few moments later with a new shirt and a small bag. “That’s but a sample of what your General had stashed down there. Take a look,” he said, handing the bag to Morrison.

Morrison opened the bag as Hannibal removed his trench coat and changed into his new shirt. Morrison’s eyes grew round as he saw the doubloons and jewels inside. “My god!” he breathed, feeling the treasure. “You weren’t lying.”

“Of course not; that’s just a small portion of the treasure we found. The biggest portion we found was a huge crate of gold bullion filled with sixteen pound bars of gold, ninety-nine percent pure,” Hannibal informed, putting the coat back on as Morrison returned the bag. Hannibal put the bag back in the tent and said, “Let’s go and see if they need any help.”

As they walked outside, Morrison said, “I’m sorry I doubted you about the gold and the warheads. I tend to be very suspicious of people because of the war going on here.”

“Think nothing of it,” Hannibal answered warmly, patting Morrison on the shoulder. “I used to be a lot like you, but I learned being overly suspicious of everyone only isolates you. It took me a long time to trust my friends. Sometimes, you just have to go on a little faith.”

“You certainly are a strange fellow, Hannibal,” Morrison declared. “But one I like, despite my better judgment.”

“Is that so?” Hannibal chimed as they traversed the hall heading to the airfield. “I’m flattered.”

As they stepped out onto the airfield, Morrison asked, “Where’d you find your friends? I never knew such creatures existed.”

“That’s a long story,” Hannibal replied, chuckling. “Maybe I can tell it after we deal with this General of yours.” Morrison smiled as they stood just outside the hangar entrance and surveyed the scene. Everyone converged on Hannibal’s position in moments.

“Everything is set,” Nathanael reported as he walked up with Selina, Harry, and Arabella. “We should be able to deal with anything that comes along.”

“Good,” Hannibal replied. “Let’s relax a bit while we have the chance. I suspect this may be the last time we’ll have to do it for a while.” Hannibal turned and went back into the hangar. They followed and gathered around the fire, which was smoldering. Harry poked it, throwing more wood on it.

“Okay now, who’s this General?” Hannibal asked Morrison. Morrison then began to explain the civil and political turmoil and how the General was involved in it.

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