Batresh sat in a folding chair. From the second row of risers, she looked down at an empty first row.
She was nervous.
She thought her feeling of insecurity could be from downloads. The memories were not her own. She recalled an older woman, a chain smoker, with a rough voice. The memories were from a singer in New York City. The drapes behind the voice teacher, Ruth, were opened. Batresh could see they were in a skyscraper.
The person from whom the memories were copied felt surprise that the teacher, having such a damaged speaking voice, knew so much about singing. Even with a vocal liability, the person in whom the memories originated, believed Ruth was the best voice teacher she ever had.
Batresh was brought out of her reverie by a woman sitting down in front of her. The woman had short dark hair, wore a black polyester pant suit and no make-up. More people were arriving. To her left, tenors would be seated, and to her right, altos.
Chairs were placed on wooden rectangular boxes, risers made by stage-hands decades earlier, scratched and worn by repeated stacking.
She looked out into Powell Symphony Hall. Empty audience chairs were covered with red velour. The carpet was crimson, the walls, cream colored with gold-leaf ornaments. She thought it looked like the inside of a wedding cake.
A thin, elegantly dressed man, prematurely gray, wearing a navy pea-coat, sat down next to her. …a tenor, she thought to herself.
The man looked around the stage. “Well, here we are, on the stage of Powell Hall,” he said to her.
She laughed softly and responded, “I feel famous!”
He laughed. “Are you an alto?” he asked.
“According to Mr. Beckham, I am a contralto,” she referred to the conductor. “I always thought I was a mezzo,” she said, remembering a conversation from the downloads.
“Let’s see,” he said, gesturing to her face with his left hand, “From your speaking voice, I can tell you would make a great Carmen,” he smiles.
A man sat down to his left, “Hi Bob,” he offered.
Batresh looked to her right as more singers walked to the stage. This is a big chorus, she thought to herself.
At the entrance, walking with three other women, was a young person of indeterminate gender. He or she, had a beautiful face, with brown hair, parted on the side. There were no breasts.
It’s him, she thought.
He walked with feminine gracefulness. Wearing yellow-satin, flared trousers, a gold sequined belt, and a loose white shirt, he was stylish for January 1977. He carried a green wool coat in his arms, along with a black folder holding sheets of music.
She couldn’t take her eyes off him.
He looked at her without recognition.
He had not seen her since he was five.
Two weeks had passed for her, but 14 years for him.
She had not been ready for her first mission. But she had been successful. This was her second.
Along with cultural downloads, Batresh had genetically modified. Her hair was no longer blonde, but black and tightly curled. Her skin was darker. She seemed to be Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or of mixed race. Only her facial features remained the same.
Looking to her left, she saw the man sitting next to her, Bob, watching the beautiful, young man approach.
Denny took a chair in front of them.
Bob, sitting next to her, placed his right hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Are you a tenor?” Bob asked.
Denny responded, “Yes, I am.” He blushed at the older man’s attention.
He extended his right hand to Denny, “Bob Miller, looks like we’re going to be neighbors.”
From the way Bob spoke to Denny, the way his eyes lingered on the young man’s skin Batresh knew he was attracted to Denny.
Denny smiled and shook his hand. But turned back around, watching a heavy man step onto a podium in front of them.
While she had been at Sekhem, Batresh received downloads consisting of a decade of voice lessons. She was now an accomplished choral singer. Although not a soloist, she could sing and read music. She disagreed with Mr. Beckham, the conductor who stood in front of them. She believed she was a mezzo.
Thomas Beckham had worked with some of the most famous choruses in the United States. Tonight, was the first rehearsal of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus.
He looked over the chorus. He spoke softly.
Batresh could feel his spirit -- compassionate. …a good environment for Denny, she thought.
Mr. Beckham began, “Welcome to the first rehearsal of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus!”
The chorus applauded. There were cheers.
Batresh looked back at the singers, a mixture of ages and races.
“Let’s open the Prokofiev,” Mr. Beckham offered. “Page five, penultimate measure.”
Batresh looked down.
Denny was calmly going through music.
Jerry did a good job, she thought. Denny, considering his difficult home life, had made it further than many would have predicted. He had grown beyond the culture he was born into. Nothing gave away his humble, Mississippi origins.
She looked to the left towards the men’s section - tenors and basses. She saw, near the edge, a dark man, Middle-Eastern in appearance, handsome. She looked down at the floor to hide her shock. He was a Tlaloc hybrid, an Icnotl, an untouchable, modified to appear human.
Looking back, she saw he watched Denny from the corner of his eye.
Chords sounded from the long, ebony, concert grand. The conductor lifted a baton into the air.
Rain fell hard against slanted windows of the small freighter.
“I cannot,” Zimudar hissed, referring to her inability to send telepathic communications.
Too dangerous, Taharqo replied telepathically, meaning it was too dangerous to speak aloud. Dusmanyu troops swarmed the city. Look, he said telepathically again, pointing to the display on the dashboard.
The freighter in which they sat, an unadorned, rough, tradesman’s craft, more a space faring, tractor-trailer than spaceship, was parked on a platform situated on the roof of a skyscraper in an industrial area of Ditallu. The capital city of the Chava system covered the entire northern continent of Dilmun.
“DNA readers,” Taharqo said aloud.
Two Dusmanyu approached.
“I’m part Chava,” she whispered. “What will they do to us?” She sat there, looking unlike any Chava he’d seen. Chava DNA had been spliced so frequently and with so many species that one could not easily identify a Chava by physical appearance.
“I’m not Chava,” he responded, wondering how they would respond to Tayamni DNA. Don’t worry, he said telepathically.
He could see Zimudar’s eyes redden through the visor. Her blue skin and yellow eyes took on a green hue in changing light.
A female screamed.
Looking at the walkway, Zimudar’s eyes widened.
A woman lay unconscious. The two Dusmanyu were walking away from her.
Zimudar looked at Taharqo.
Stay calm, he ordered telepathically. We’ll figure it out. He fingered the weapons disk in his palm.
No sooner had he sent the message than the Dusmanyu appeared at his door. They were identical. Same mask, same clothing, same cybernetic enhancements. Only a mark near the right shoulder distinguished them, a kind of hieroglyphic sign.
“Get out, stand in front of the vehicle,” the mechanical sounding translator announced.
Lightening flashed in the north momentarily showing red, electrical implants, serving as eyes, behind the mask.
Taharqo opened the doors and stood out of the vehicle. “What happened?” he pointed to the female lying on the sidewalk.
“We are not street cleaners,” the other Dusmanyu said.
Tarharqo and Zimudar walked to the front of the freighter.
Both Dusmanyu appeared to be mammalian females. They had small breasts and wide hips.
“Hold out your palms,” one of them ordered.
Taharqo held out his empty, left palm.
Zimudar did the same.
The one on the right passed a device over Zimudar’s palm. “Chava,” she said. “From Ditallu,” she continued. “Mixed with three other species, non-aquatic.”
Zimudar looked down at her feet, wondering what she meant. She was afraid to ask.
The one on the left passed a reader over Taharqo’s palm.
Taharqo looked at her with an expressionless face.
She looked at her companion. “Strange,” she said and passed the reader over his palm again.
“You are Dusmanyu,” she said to him. “But you are male?”
He drew his brows together in confusion.
“Why are you here?” she continued. “There are no Dusmanyu males.”
“I,” he said and paused, thinking quickly. “I am not Dusmanyu.”
She passed her reader over his palm again. “This must be reported. You are not cyborg. What is your designation?”
He looked at her with confusion.
“What is your name?” she asked again.
“Taharqo,” he said.
“Your planet of birth?” she asked.
He didn’t want to suggest new targets, so he lied. “I am from Ditallu.”
“You lie,” she said. “You have no traces from Ditallu. Where are you from?”
He paused looking aside at a Dusmanyu fighter lifting off the wet surface of a nearby pad. “I am from Ditallu,” he said again.
The Dusmanyu looked at each other. Their masks unreadable.
The one on the left pressed the device into his palm and injected a sensor. “You will not leave the planet until we determine your origin,” she said. “Attempt to leave, and you will be destroyed.”
“Why did you kill her?” he pointed to the woman lying on the walkway, in the rain.
“Aquatic,” she answered. “Aquatics must be eliminated.”
“Atmehytu?” Taharqo asked.
She nodded. “You are Taharqo of the Dusmanyu. We must know why you are here.”
He looked down at his feet.
“The female is free to leave the planet,” the one on the left, the leader, ordered. “You must remain.”
Taharqo nodded to Zimudar.
The two Dusmanyu turned and walked towards another vehicle parked nearby.
You should leave, Taharqo sent Zimudar a telepathic message.
“How will you get off-world?” she whispered. “…steal another ship?”
I’ll find a way. Gotta understand the weapon, he said to her, telepathically. The gas is increasing. It’s unstable. This is how they do it.
“I’m not leaving you,” she said.
Look around, he said. Everybody’s gone. They’re either dead or they’ve left. They know what’s happening. This planet will burn. You must leave.
She looked to the left. The atmosphere was visibly transforming. When they’d arrived, the sky was still visible through the clouds. Now, it glowed a menacing yellow. Light was diffused, as in fog.
Behind Taharqo, weak, pink sunlight reflected off a skyscraper. He could see particulates in the air.
Leave now, Taharqo said. Don’t worry about me. I’ll find a vehicle. “Go!” he said aloud.
“You don’t know when…it could be any minute now,” she said.
“Not while Dusmanyu military are still here,” he said, looking towards the two that had just left them. He took her wrist and pulled her to the vehicle. “Get in.”
Zimudar turned and opened the vehicle door.
It was harder to breathe. Taharqo worried that filters in his breather may be clogged.
He watched as Zimudar and the vehicle lifted off the pad. Walking to the edge, he looked down. From this vantage one might suspect there was no ground below. But this was not a floating city. The structures were attached to moorings anchored deep in bedrock.
Tunnels, he thought. Maintenance tunnels, underground. He looked down.
The ground was so far away, the haze so thick, that he could not see bottom. He remembered readings from the vehicle. The pad was more than a kilometer from the ground. Buildings around him stretched a kilometer higher still. Through fog-like haze he could see rocky peaks and deep valleys in the distance. But these were buildings, not mountains. He looked across a vast city scape, now barely visible. Sunlight and shadow were distorted, discolored. It was midday but getting darker by the minute.
…must find tunnels, he thought.
They went over difficult passages in the Prokofiev and through the Quattro Pezzi Sacri. The conductor coached the tenor section, helping them to relax their chins and neck muscles. He taught them to allow the stream of air to be established before engaging the vocal cords.
Within a short time, the soprano section was blending. Batresh understood why he wanted her to sit next to the tenors. Her low voice blended with the men. She noticed Bob began to bring more chest resonance to his high notes.
He’s giving us a voice lesson, she said to herself, astonished at her downloaded memories.
After an hour, the conductor announced they would take a break. The singers rose from chairs. She overheard conversations and realized some had been singing together for years.
The Tlaloc hybrid headed towards a stairway that led down from the stage to the auditorium. Several men watched him. Men who were sexually attracted to other men were organizing politically and more openly expressed themselves at 1977.
She smiled, thinking of the Vizier at Sekhem.
She saw Denny’s eyes follow the handsome hybrid.
“Want to go to the lobby?” Bob asked Denny.
Batresh saw Denny stand with the grace of her Matriarch. She realized movements, facial expressions and even vocal intonations, remained with the Matriarch’s Ka. Her mannerisms expressed themselves now in the movements of this young man.
Batresh noted, even though Denny had only left Mississippi a few months earlier, his accent was refined.
Bob walked towards Denny and touched his shoulder. “Let’s take this stairway,” he said, gesturing to the right, on the other side of the auditorium.
A voice to her left, caused people to look around. A young, freckled woman, wearing a T-shirt and jeans made a vulgar joke. Some blushed and turned away, but a few, including Denny and Bob looked towards her smiling.
Someone touched Batresh’s arm. She turned and saw a man with curly hair. His black eyes sparkled behind round, wire-rimmed glasses.
“Welcome to St. Louis,” he offered, “I am Tom’s assistant.” His smile was genuine. She saw his pink bottom lip under a bushy mustache. He extended his right hand, “Seth Neuman.”
She took his hand and looked into his eyes. Her reaction to him was strong, she wondered, as she had with Jerry, whether feelings of attraction were the result of downloads.
“Of course, you know already, I’m Miriam Kaplan.” She laughed, blushing. She realized she looked Mediterranean. The downloads had informed her of a large Jewish population at St. Louis, so she chose a Jewish name.
“Where are you from?” Seth detected her scent and moved closer.
She had not thought to create a history for the character she played here. “I have moved here from Mississippi,” she said, referring to the only contemporary place she had lived.
He was so close she could feel the heat from his body. He wore a black, silk shirt, the two top buttons of which were unbuttoned. His sparsely spaced chest hair looked carefully arranged by human hands. His legs were thick, straining against tight, cream colored trousers. People at this time were more sexually open than in the early 60s.
“Oh,” Seth looked confused. He had not detected a Southern accent. He looked at one of the chairs, then back into her face. “There is a young tenor who just moved here from Mississippi.”
The conductor looked at the two of them, “Seth?” he called.
“Excuse me,” Seth looked at Batresh and nodded. He walked towards the conductor.
Batresh looked into the auditorium but did not see Denny and Bob. They must have gone to the lobby. She turned and walked towards the stairway.
She made her way between sections of chairs in the auditorium. When she reached the back, a baritone opened the door for her. She noted dimples as he smiled. “Thank you,” she offered. She stepped onto the white marble floor. Her heels clicked on the hard surface.
Denny and Bob stood at a curving stair that led up to a mezzanine.
She walked towards them.
Bob introduced Denny to his friends.
Batresh noticed the Tlaloc stood at the unattended bar, talking with another man.
“Want to get something to eat after rehearsal?” Bob asked a woman as she pulled a mink around her shoulders.
She nodded, while a tall, thin man next to him said, “That sounds like fun!”
Bob turned to Batresh, “Ah, here is our Carmen,” he smiled playfully. “I’m sorry, I didn’t ask your name.”
Batresh extended her hand, “Miriam Kaplan,” she responded.
“Are you from St. Louis?” Bob asked.
“I just moved here from Mississippi,” She looked into his hazel eyes. He was kind.
A rotund woman opened the door from the auditorium and motioned for them to come back inside.
Bob touched Batresh’s arm, “Would you like to join us at Llewellyn’s after rehearsal?”
“I would love to, but you’ll have to tell me how to get there.”
“Why don’t I drive,” he responded. “You can come with us. I’ll bring you back.”
“Perfect,” she responded.
They headed back to the stage.
She walked up the steps and saw Seth.
He watched her as she stepped onto varnished planks.
“We have a Russian coach with us tonight,” the conductor announced.
An older, stooped man, wearing a Scandinavian sweater stood behind a music stand. He squinted at sheets of music.
Looking at his face, she thought of her Matriarch’s sister, Lamma. She had been in the Soviet military at 1962. The last Batresh heard of her was at the Lunar base. Lamma had announced, in caverns below the station, that the Tlalocs were helping the Soviets develop an anti-matter weapon.
Why were Tlaloc-hybrids still here? The warrior caste had gone. Had the hybrids organized? Were they simply living out their lives as humans? She remembered the term, untouchable, Icnotl. They were outcasts.
During the war the Potacas had worked for the Tlalocs. Looking at the outcome, however, it seemed the Potacas had manipulated the Tlalocs for their own ends.
The Potacas stole time-travel technology. Potacas hybrids were now spread throughout human history. And, for the first time they had a leader, Ilyapa. It was suspected she ruled the entire effort from a hide-a-way in the 1940s. Signs of her strategy reached back to earlier times and into the future.
Batresh looked at the Tlaloc-hybrid sitting with the Baritones. Could he be working for Ilyapa now? What did they know about the future of Earth?
He looked back at her with suspicion, as if he wondered who she was, why she was here.
Batresh looked away.
The Russian coach began, “Vstavaitia, ludi Ruskia…” reciting the libretto, Arise Russian people. He asked the chorus to repeat his words.
“Nya slavni boi, nya smertnyi boi,” …to a glorius battle, a battle to the death!
Batresh knew Tlalocs had been with the Soviet military. The Black Sentry, the impenetrable technology orbiting Terra, had moved to a position over Kiev as Soviet weapons developers moved closer to production.
“Vsta vaitya ludi volnya…” Arise, free people, for our beloved country!
The Tlalocs and Soviets worked together developing the weapon. As they readied themselves to begin testing, a beam emanated from the Black Sentry, striking the weapon and computers used to develop it, destroying not only the weapon, but all data.
“…za nashu ziem lu, chyess nu yu!” Honor to the warriors and glory to the dead!
Lamma had been accused and convicted of destroying the anti-matter weapon.
Tlaloc-hybrids executed her with ceremony, before the leadership of the Soviet military. They executed her with elaborate theatricality, calling the Tayamni the real threat to humanity. Batresh knew their goal was to destroy the United States and all who would work to preserve their arch enemy. To execute Lamma, they used the same weapon they had fired at Namazu.
But Lamma had no shields, no protection. She died on-impact, her nervous system, disintegrated.
When the Tayamni physical body dies, the Hathors are called to find the spirit, the core of the Tayamni identity, the Ka. But, now, years later, Lamma’s Ka had not been found.
At 8:45, Tom, the conductor, made another announcement. “Tonight, we have second treat,” he looked around at their faces. “Claudine Carlson, our soloist, is here to sing what is, in my opinion, the most powerful section of the piece.”
The pianist began a slow, mournful melody, as a tall woman, unnoticed earlier, slowly stood, as if rising from the underworld. She rose from a position behind the chorus, standing slowly, looking beyond the interior of Powell Hall, to a distant, medieval battlefield.
Batresh felt the coldness of Russian winter. She saw wives, mothers, and sisters searching for loved ones in the snow, looking for the dead, bodies of a peasant army.
Ms. Carlson began, low, sobbing, “Matnaya Russ…” Mother Russia…
Bob drove Batresh and Leslie, the freckled woman, to the Central West End in his 1968 Peugeot. Denny followed in a car he had driven here from Mississippi. They parked in an alleyway behind buildings decorated with carved panels from the turn of the century. Bob pointed out two gay bars within one block on Euclid Avenue. At one end was an art deco gay bar, Herbie’s. He pointed out that Herbie’s was one of only two gay bars in the U.S. with clear windows. The oppression of gay people in the U.S. had been so severe that gay bar owners protected their patrons by either blacking out windows or choosing buildings with no windows at all. The windows at Herbie’s were large, clear, sheets of glass.
Looking to the interior of the bar, Batresh could see Victorian oil paintings. Potted palms were placed around the restaurant section. Shining, chrome bordered tabletops reminded her of images from the 1930s. Vines hung from horizontal planters placed high over windows.
Batresh saw a white and silver, stained-glass window suspended from the ceiling.
Bob told her it was from the Normandy.
Along a barrier separating two halves of the dining room, chromed, nude female figures held bowls from which flowering vines fell.
At the other end of the block, at Euclid and McPherson, was another bar, older, with blacked out windows. Shabby and ragged, it was The Potpourri.
They walked east from Euclid towards a brightly painted red dragon hanging over the sidewalk. They had reached Llewellyn’s.
Once inside the crowded bar, they squeezed around a table set against the wall, Bob, Denny, the middle-aged woman wearing mink, Leslie, Seth, and three other women.
“Miriam is from Mississippi too,” Bob said to Denny. They were holding hands under the table.
Denny looked into Bob’s eyes as if he had found his knight in shining armor.
Bob looked into Denny’s eyes as if he would battle the devil himself to protect him.
Bob was falling in love.
The freckled woman from the chorus, Leslie, could have been a stand-in for Barbra Streisand.
After not knowing who Elvis Presley was in her first mission, Batresh was careful to make sure the downloads covered more details of popular culture.
Seth looked at Batresh with excitement. “Why are you in St. Louis?” he asked.
Batresh had to think quickly. “I’m at Washington University.”
“Really,” Seth responded. “Are you working on a PhD?” He saw that she was a bit too old to be a college student. Her DNA modifications had aged her to appear to be around 30.
Batresh nodded her head, “I am working on the early history of Egypt.” At least, she knew something about this subject.
Seth ordered a Guinness. “I’ll have a coke,” Batresh told the waitress.
Denny was explaining to Bob, “I came here with a woman, we were going to get married, but that didn’t work out.”
Bob couldn’t help but laugh. “Aren’t you a little young to be getting married?”
Leslie interjected, “Aren’t you a little gay to be getting married.” She laughed at her own joke.
Bob tried to stifle a laugh and looked down at the young hand he held in his own.
Denny looked at Leslie with a smile, “I guess so.”
“I know so,” Leslie told him. “When I saw you, I didn’t know if you were a man or a woman.” She leaned over to Denny and gave him a kiss square on the lips. “You are beautiful, ya know!” she continued.
Bob squeezed Denny’s hand.
Their drinks arrived. The bar was busy. Batresh wondered that a restaurant and bar would be so crowded on a Tuesday night.
Denny picked at a salad. Batresh could see that he was observing everything and everyone, taking in all the information he could.
Several middle-aged men sat at the bar, watching sports on television. Every now and then, the men shouted, raising their arms in the air.
Seth moved closer to Batresh.
She saw markers, signs in his face, the shape of his eyes, his full lips, revealing that his distant ancestors were from her homeland at Kemet. To her, he was beautiful, human, innocent. In intervening centuries, his ancestors had lived in Northern Europe. His complexion was pale.
Her recent downloads included several potential origins of the Jewish people.
The histories were uncertain, full of conjecture. It was as if the Jewish people sprang up from the region north and east of Kemet, by magic, as if there were no precursors; as if tribes in the area coalesced over night into a ruthless, powerful military.
Some speculated that a Kemetic leader, a Pharaoh, two thousand years after Batresh lived there, had founded the religion himself. Some speculated that Moses, meaning child, in the Kemetic language, had been one of that Pharaoh’s sons from a minor wife.
But others projected evidence of the Jewish people to a date at the time she, herself had lived.
Two thousand years after she lived at Sekhem, a Kemetic leader, a Pharaoh, would attempt to wipe out the ancient spirituality the Tayamni brought with them. This Pharaoh would establish the worship of one God. Later, he would be poisoned, and his first son would restore reverence to ancient Gods and Goddesses.
Some conjectured that one of that Pharaoh’s sons would be committed to the monotheism of his father.
Being a believer in the heretical religion of his father, he would be ostracized and banished.
A fierce leader of Egyptian armies, a ruthless military tactician, this son would take with him the fiercest soldiers his father had gathered round him. Drawn from adjoining regions, these soldiers revered the murdered Pharaoh. This son of Akhenaten would take a group of fighters to their homeland where they would establish a new kingdom.
The religion of Mosi’s murdered father, centered on the Aten, would evolve, with other regional beliefs, into what would become Judaism.
But, why speculate, Batresh asked herself. Why wonder about the origin? Why does it matter? Does it really contribute to who these people are now? Perhaps it would be better to simply leave the origin as it was, safely hidden in the mists of history. Surely that was more respectful.
There was something about the magic of not knowing that appealed to Batresh.
Denny gasped, reaching his right hand forward, “I am so sorry.” He blushed with embarrassment and looked at the woman wearing the mink.
She was wiping something off the stole with a paper napkin. She looked angry.
“I apologize, he offered.” Apparently, Denny put a small tomato in his mouth, and bit down, causing the tomato to explode, shooting pulp and seeds onto the woman’s mink. She tried to wipe it off. She dipped a paper napkin into a glass of water and dabbed at the stain.
“I have to go home to get this off,” she said. She stood, pulling the mink tightly around her shoulders, and quickly made her way out of the restaurant.
Watching her leave, Batresh noticed the Tlaloc from rehearsal sitting near the front window. He was watching Denny.
Seth stood to allow Bob and Denny out from behind the table. They were leaving.
Batresh took her handbag and stood as well. Seth took the opportunity to take Batresh’s hand in his, as he moved back into the aisle. When they reached the sidewalk outside, the unseasonably warm night had cooled. “You don’t have a coat?” Seth asked.
“I didn’t think I would need one tonight,” Batresh tried to laugh.
Seth removed his leather jacket and placed it on Batresh’s shoulders.
The four of them walked to Euclid and turned left. “I don’t know much about Ancient Egypt,” Seth offered.
“My concentration is the Kemetic culture before the Pharaohs,” Batresh responded. She noticed that Seth looked confused. “Scholars debate where knowledge of architecture, agriculture, and writing came from.” She looked into Seth’s face, and felt affection for him and his people. His dark eyes belied an honesty she found appealing. “The culture appeared quickly, almost overnight. The ancients themselves believed their culture came directly from the Gods,” she looked at his face to judge his reaction. She continued, “…before the first Pharaohs.”
Seth looked at her with renewed interest.
They looked ahead towards Bob and Denny, who had turned right into the alley. “May I see you this weekend?” Seth asked her.
“That would be nice,” she smiled. “I’m staying with friends at Fontainebleau.”
“Fontainebleau is a Catholic girl’s college, right?” he asked.
Looking to her right, Batresh saw Bob and Denny kissing. “Yes,” she paused as they looked at the couple embracing. “But they recently changed their policy. They allow boys too.”
Seth looked at Bob and Denny and smiled. “I won’t take such liberties.” He squeezed her hand gently. “Yet,” he smiled. “May I drive you to the college?”
“Thank you,” Batresh offered. “But, Sister Ahatu will come to pick me up at the Chase.” They continued walking south on Euclid.
“That’s an unusual name,” Seth responded. “I don’t think I have heard of Sainte Ahatu.” Catholic religious usually took the names of saints.
“Neither have I,” Batresh chuckled.
“So, what do you know about ancient Egyptians?” Seth continued, as he slid his arm around her waist.
Batresh looked into his eyes, and thought to herself, I know you are a descendant of them. But she did not say this, instead, she responded, “They came to the Great River from the Sahara and the eastern deserts as droughts became more continuous and severe.” Now, she could see the tall hotel against the night sky. “They were looking for food and water.”
They turned towards the right. She looked into the sky and saw The Winter Hunting Scene and Orion’s belt, which she knew, humans originally saw as Osiris, or Yasar. His belt had originally been a penis, the holy phallus with which the Holy Mother impregnated herself after Osiris’ dismemberment.
Batresh could see her breath in the cool air. “There are petroglyphs in the Sahara depicting wild game, fish, and fruit trees.” They reached the hotel.
Seth looked at her.
She knew he wanted to kiss her. She stood on tip toes and kissed him quickly on the cheek. “You can find me at Fontainebleau’s dorms until I find an apartment.”
Seth stepped back and nodded. She turned to go into the hotel.
Amun heard the projectile whistle in the air above him. Then, a loud pop. His ATV coasted to a stop. The EMP event took out systems protected by shielding. Looking back, he saw dust rising in the distance. They were gaining.
He leapt out and ran. Hot, dry air burned his throat.
He’d detected kurrunite signals nearby.
Now, his detector was dead. He glanced at the blank screen on his wrist out of habit.
He stopped and looked around, nothing but boulders, thorny brush, and caverns. He was in a valley between shear rock faces. Caverns dotted bluffs around him.
He’d been here before; it seemed like a century ago. There was a cave where he’d hidden technology. There had been water at a lower level, signs of habitation, charred wood, the remains of a campfire.
And, there it was, just as he remembered, a gap between boulders wedged, smashed together, low to the ground. He knelt and crawled through the entrance. Once inside, he was able to stand. Walking deeper, he dragged his hand along the rock wall to orient himself.
They would follow.
The cave was cool and damp.
He walked faster, wishing the pulse had not disabled his suit. Still, he was sure this was the right place.
Ahead, boulders had fallen, narrowing the passageway, scattering rock and sand. Dim light came from a source behind the rocks. He climbed over debris and found himself in a chamber, a narrow passageway with a sandy floor. Turning, he pulled a cylinder from a compartment in this belt. Wedging the cylinder between two boulders, he stepped back.
There was a flash of light and a snap. The boulder holding the passage open, fell. Large rocks, gravel and sand scattered on the floor. He stepped clear of debris. Dust billowed around him. Now, the way behind him was blocked.
That’ll slow ’em down.
He stood still, listening, waiting for shifting debris to quieten. He licked his lips. His throat was dry.
Looking down, he saw small footprints, as if a child had been here.
He turned and found stairs hewn into rock, leading down.
He stooped to enter a curving stairway. The light grew stronger.
Why here? Did they steal more technology?
He suspected Potacas hybrids wanted to thwart the upcoming peace accord between Egypt and Israel. Two years from now, in 1979, Egypt would make a separate peace with Israel, diffusing a potentially apocalyptic war between east and west. Hybrids were working around Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president who would make the agreement.
All was quiet here. He heard nothing except his own footsteps and a muffled sound of flowing water.
Walking further into the chamber, he reached an open space. Pale light reflected onto rock walls from displays, consoles and screens around the perimeter. No one was here.
Looking towards the center of the space, he gasped.
A temporal hoop like the one at the Solar-Portal stood there. It looked to be functioning. At each side, and elevated above it, were rods of kurrunite, at least a hundred of them.
Under the rods were consoles and displays. Amun saw confused settings. Gravity was not strong enough at Earth. The mechanism was unstable.
He jumped back.
Looking at him from behind the hoop, sitting at a console on the opposite side, was a Potacas technician wearing an environmental suit. The creature was frozen in movement, leaning back, but focused on the temporal hoop.
Amun stepped around the device. The Potacas was dead, its mouth open in grimace. There were blaster marks on his suit.
Amun saw a hand extending from under the chair. Another Potacas lay on the floor. The pale hand of the dead creature held a blaster pointed towards the hoop.
Amun turned around to look behind him. There were two more Potacas, dead, sitting at consoles. Their expressionless eyes looked toward the temporal device.
Amun walked towards the one closest to him.
Looking back towards the device, he wondered what had stepped through it. These were pure Potacas, thought to no longer exist at Earth. Only hybrids were here now.
How can it operate? Amun wondered.
The console configured to the hoop was unfamiliar. Amun reached down and punched a control. A dull hum sounded. A hazy bubble began to form.
He heard noise behind him.
The band of Potacas-hybrids pursuing him had found his discarded ATV.
He had been sent to the Sinai to prevent an assassination plot. The hybrids, able to pass messages through time, knew of the potential, an outcome they wished to thwart – a future peace between Israel and Egypt.
He smelled melting rock. They were using lasers to cut through boulders.
Looking at the hoop, he wondered. What would happen if he stepped through? He saw an image through the bubble. It was a sunny landscape, a desert. The image blurred and changed. Now, he looked into an abandoned structure; a wall blasted away, nothing but stars. An asteroid? The image changed again. He saw shifting shapes of light…under water? The device was unstable.
Looking at the console, he saw settings continually changing. The mechanism adjusting the cylinders changed positions with every setting. It made a squeaking, scraping sound. At least three cylinders were damaged, cracked. Slivers of crystal lay on the floor under the device.
What had come through? Who shot these Potacas?
He noticed a glint of light from behind a large boulder serving as a wall. There was another chamber. He walked towards the boulder and smelled a familiar odor, the scent of decaying bodies, but human, not Potacas or Tlalocs.
Looking behind the boulder he saw two cots with dead humans. They had been dead for months. Metal cabinets stood near the cots. On shelves were bottles of chemicals. Amun walked closer. The humans’ shriveled, exposed arms had intravenous tubing taped to them. A military uniform lay on a chair. Reaching over, he fingered the material…Russian? Cuban? Looking more closely, he saw an emblem. “Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias,” he whispered, Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. He tilted his head with curiosity. Looking back at the emaciated body on the cot, he realized the dead man could be Cuban.
“Why?” he whispered again.
Looking into the exhausted expression on the dead man’s face, he realized these were experiments. The Potacas were working on a new disease, something that would kill humans.
An explosion sounded from behind the rock closing off the chamber. His weapons were not functioning. Either he would fight them or jump through the hoop.
What if he materialized at the bottom of the ocean or on a planet with no atmosphere? At least, with the unstable device, the hybrids would not be able to follow him.
He walked to the hoop and stood in front, watching the scenes as they changed. Now, a darkened room, a shaft of moonlight through a window, small, dark handprints low on a wall, signs left by children to scare away the evil-eye.
Another explosion sounded behind him.
He stepped through the hoop.