A story from Transgenre Dreams.
“The delegation has arrived, Mr. Blackthorn.”
Erasmus Blackthorn tapped the intercom on his desk.
“Send them up, Melissa.”
He placed his hands on his huge and largely empty desk and swung his chair a little. They had come to dissuade him, but they were too late. His people were already on site and already digging. Erasmus indulged himself a smile, which he knew he would have to lose soon. These people would expect serious conversation and if he was to get what he wanted out of this meeting, he would have to keep it serious.
“Do we have the permits yet?” Charlie West’s face
was full of concern, but then it always was.
“They are coming. Mr. Blackthorn has cleared this
with the authorities. Don’t worry, Charlie, we aren’t going to get into any
trouble.” Terry Rarity sighed. Charlie was a worrier. Maybe Terry shouldn’t
have brought him on this dig but Charlie was a good archaeologist and
particularly skilled at noticing the tiny details so many others overlooked.
The downside was Charlie’s insistence on proper protocol. If he ever found out
there were no permits, that the whole thing was a catalogue of Blackthorn’s
calling in favours, coupled with payoffs and bribes, he’d have a fit.
“You know I’m not comfortable unless it’s all above
board.” Charlie stared at his shoe as he twisted it in the dirt.
“I know. It’s fine, Charlie, really. We’re just
following up on earlier work. The hole we’re digging into was first dug in
2001. This isn’t some speculative dig, we already know we’re onto something.”
Charlie sniffed. “Do we know why they stopped work
“Well,” Terry said. “You know the current situation
in this country, right? The government had a lot more to worry about than some
guys in a hole in the ground and really, they still do. They can’t spare time
nor money on archaeology. We have Mr. Blackthorn’s funding so the country isn’t
having to pay out, and they get tax revenue and permit fees and they do need
the money. That’s the only way we’ve been able to revive this dig.”
Charlie shrugged. “I don’t understand why nobody
did it this way before. It’s a fascinating find and it just got ditched for so
Charlie, you’re still at the stage where you think science is pure and scientists
don’t engage in sneaky, underhand practices to keep the money flowing.
“It’s about funding. Basically, about keeping funding going by not reaching the
end point.” Terry held up his hands. “It’s the science version of politics,
Charlie. Stay one step away from the final discovery for as long as possible,
and the money keeps coming. It’s the game that has corrupted real science in
every field.” Terry smiled. “We don’t play that game and neither does Mr.
Blackthorn. We want to see the end point. We want to see the last secret opened
within our lifetime.”
Charlie closed one eye in a lopsided smile. “I want that too.”
“Gentlemen, welcome. Please, have a seat.” Erasmus
indicated the three chairs placed in front of his wide desk. “Can I offer
anyone a drink?”
The three men exchanged glances and all shook their
“No thank you, Mr. Blackthorn. The matter at hand
is urgent, at least to us.”
Erasmus recognised Professor Christopher Rooke and
extended his hand. “I’m quite certain it is of the utmost importance to you,
The Professor ignored Erasmus’ proffered handshake
and raised his eyebrows. “You know me?”
“Of course.” Erasmus let his hand fall to his side.
“I do not enter into projects, nor business arrangements, not even meetings, without
knowing who I am dealing with.” He nodded to the other two men. “Professor
Williamson. Doctor Prosser. I haven’t studied all your work in detail, of
course, that would require rather more time than I have available, but I think
I have the general idea.” He relaxed into his chair. “Please, gentlemen, be
seated, and tell me your concerns.”
The three men sat. Professor Rooke placed his arms
on the desk, fingers interlocked. “We are here because of the projects you have
applied for. The permits you have applied for, I mean. You’re clearly in a
position to fund the projects yourself.”
“Quite so. I have engaged the services of one of
your colleagues, a Doctor Rarity, and we are seeking permission for digs in a
number of locations.”
“Rarity!” Prosser sneered. “He’s a treasure hunter,
not an archaeologist.”
Erasmus smiled. “I am a businessman, not a
scientist. I am not interested in discovery for its own sake. I am, as you
correctly deduce, in it largely for the profit.”
Rooke waved Prosser to silence. “Mr. Blackthorn,
what you will find is not treasure. There is no gold in the chambers you
Erasmus smiled wider. “I know, but not all treasure is gold.”
Terry looked over the drawing Charlie had made. “So
all these stone vials contain pressurised carbon dioxide?”
“Yes,” Charlie indicated the lines of vials
embedded in the walls and revealed by their ground penetrating radar. “Try to
break through by force and we’ll release enough of it to asphyxiate ourselves
down there. It’s heavier than air, and two or three of those would be enough to
fill the dig.”
“I wonder how they did that?” Terry mused. “We have
to get a few of them out intact, for later study.”
“Won’t be easy.” Charlie sniffed. “Those things are
embedded in the stones and then there’s the vibration down there. Subsonic,
makes you feel like crap. We still don’t know where that comes from. We have to
cycle the diggers because they can’t work in there for more than an hour. They
certainly can’t hold on long enough to extract one of those vials.”
“We’ll get back to the vials later.” Terry scanned
the hand drawn diagram. “There must be a way into the thing. I bet the
vibrations come from something inside, and if we can find it and stop it, it’ll
be much easier. I can’t see a way in.”
“There might be one.” Charlie pointed to a mark on
the ground scan. “It’s in the north face. We’re digging down the east face.”
Terry squinted at the printout. “Where?”
“It’s faint, but it’s there. A rectangular patch
about halfway down the side of the structure.” Charlie took a red pen and
circled the spot.
Terry took a deep breath. He had been right to
bring Charlie along. Nobody else would have spotted that. “So, can we get to
Charlie shrugged. “The easy way would be to dig
another shaft. The quick way would be to tunnel sideways, around the thing, but
that has more risk of a tunnel collapse.”
“We won’t be able to dig another shaft. We’re lucky
to have access at all, the government here isn’t going to like us digging holes
wherever we please.” Terry tapped his pen against his chin. The truth is, digging another shaft will get
us noticed and we aren’t supposed to be here. “We have to try the tunnel.
Just make sure it’s well shored up.”
“It’s not too far around and we’re already past the
point where we’re deep enough. I’ll get the ground staff to make a start. Can
we get enough wood?”
“No problem. Mr. Blackthorn gave us a generous budget,” Terry said. “Just tell me what you need.” And I’ll bribe the right people to get it.
Williamson tapped his fist against his mouth and cleared his throat before speaking. “Mr. Blackthorn, we are all aware of your fascination with the occult. It is likely you expect to find some artefact in the chambers you are interested in. I can assure you, there is nothing of interest in any of them. Nothing that you, nor anyone else, can make use of.”
Erasmus raised his eyebrows. “You’ve opened them?”
All three shifted in their seats. Rooke spoke. “No.
We have not opened them because there is no need. We already know what they
contain and they have to remain sealed.”
Erasmus could raise his eyebrows no further. “Really? So what do they contain?”
Charlie led the way down the steep stairway cut
into the sloping shaft. “It’s no more than ten or twenty years old. The wood
still has local builders’ stamps on it.”
“You mean someone beat us to it? Damnation.” Terry
clenched his fists.
“Here we are.” Charlie stopped at a hole lined with
new wood. “We cut through a few feet of earth and the tunnel was already there.
Looks like someone blocked it off but they didn’t do a very good job.” Ahead,
the new wood changed to slightly older, darker wood lining the walls and roof
of the tunnel. “I’ve sent the diggers home for the day. We don’t need them now
and finding this spooked them a bit.” He grinned. “It spooked me a bit too,
until I realised it was very recent.”
“Maybe they didn’t get as far as that entrance you
found. Maybe they didn’t open it.” Terry bit into his lip. If they had lost
out, future funding from the Blackthorn group would not be guaranteed.
“Maybe.” Charlie handed a flashlight to Terry and turned his own on, then started along the tunnel. “Nobody has been down this passage yet. It might not go all the way.”
“We can’t tell you.” Prosser folded his arms. “You
just have to trust us.”
Erasmus smiled his broadest smile. “I won’t have to
worry about trust. One of those chambers will be open soon. Doctor Rarity is
digging into it as we speak.”
The effect was electric. Erasmus relaxed in his
chair and wished he had brought popcorn. All three men shouted at once, all
three pulled out cellphones and scrolled through screens of something or other.
Contacts, Erasmus guessed, but who should they call first? Which of the many
unexplored chambers, around the planet, was Doctor Rarity about to open?
Professor Rooke was first to grasp the dilemma. He
quieted the others then turned to Erasmus, his phone gripped in his hand.
“Which one? Where are you digging?”
Erasmus steepled his fingers. “I can’t tell you
that. You just have to trust me.” He could have laughed at the expression on
Rooke’s face, but he managed – barely – to contain himself. This was the moment
he had planned for all along and now it was here he had to stay in control.
This was no time to collapse in helpless laughter. He could do that when his
game was over.
Prosser banged his fist on the desk. “You don’t
know what’s in there! You have no idea what you’ll release.”
“We’ll know soon enough.” Erasmus looked from one to the other. He had them in a corner, and the looks on their faces told him they knew it.
“The vibrations don’t seem so bad in here.” Terry
ran his hand over his stomach. “I always feel as if I’m about to shit myself in
the main shaft, but all I feel in here is a little bit queasy.”
“I think the vibrations come from the top of the
pyramid and travel down the structure.” Charlie placed his hand on one of the
side walls, then the other. “Yes, you can feel it on the side that’s next to
the pyramid. Maybe the wooden walls attenuate it, or perhaps it’s all the earth
that’s still piled against this side.”
“Interesting.” Terry tested the walls and nodded.
“We’ll have to have a look at the top of this thing. Might be something we can
sell to the military.”
“Well, this is where the tunnel turns a corner so
we’re about halfway.” Charlie shone his flashlight along the tunnel. “This might
get to the entrance after all.”
“I hope not.” Terry gritted his teeth. “I hope they
gave up just before they reached it, and left it to us to finish the job.”
“That would be nice, but it’s a long shot. Nobody goes to this much trouble just to give up at the last minute.” Charlie started walking again.
Williamson closed his eyes and drew a long, slow
breath. He opened them and faced Erasmus. “What will it take to stop your dig?
This time, Erasmus did laugh. “Money? I have more
than I will ever need, thanks. No, you can’t buy me off. Try again.”
“What is it you want?” Prosser’s face showed
“It’s simple.” Erasmus tilted his head. “I want to
know what’s in those chambers. That’s why I’m funding Doctor Rarity’s
expedition. Really, there is nothing complicated about it, gentlemen. I just
want to know.”
For several long minutes, they sat in silence.
Finally, Rooke spoke.
“If we tell you, will you stop the dig?”
Erasmus kept his face impassive. “If you can
convince me you’re telling the truth, and that it’s important to keep the
chambers sealed, yes.”
“We can’t.” Prosser put his hand on Rooke’s arm.
“This is too big to get out.”
Rooke’s laugh came out as a snort. “If he opens
that chamber, it all gets out. And we have no idea how to put it back.”
“He’s right.” Williamson faced Erasmus. “We have to
rely on your absolute discretion. Not one word of this can leave this room.”
“Of course.” Erasmus allowed himself a small smile.
“I am a businessman, gentlemen. Keeping secrets is part of the job.”
“How much time do we have?” Rooke stared at the
desk. “How long before he opens the chamber?”
“He will call me when he finds a way in. I want to be there when it opens. So we have a little time yet.” Erasmus put his elbows on the desk. “Begin at the beginning, Professor Rooke.”
“What the hell?” Charlie almost dropped his
Terry battled the rising nausea in his insides. The
vibrations had increased, massively and suddenly and the thing on the floor
really wasn’t helping. He was sure his gut was going to violently empty at both
ends, any second now.
“Charlie…” Terry retched. “Charlie, let’s get the
hell out. We have to tell Mr. Blackthorn about this.”
“We should tell everyone.” Charlie stood immobile,
his face in a shocked rictus.
“Charlie. Move. Now. Or I’m going without you.”
Terry started down the tunnel. “Blackthorn is paying us. We tell him first.” He
was relieved when he heard Charlie’s footsteps following, then terrified when
his mind wondered if that was really Charlie following. After what they had
seen… dare he look back?
Terry picked up the pace and tried not to break into a panicked run.
Professor Rooke tapped his finger on the desk a few
times before he spoke. “You are no doubt aware of the, ah, conspiracy theories
concerning ancient structures? The pyramids in Egypt, the Göbekli Tepe find,
Gunung Padang in Indonesia, the Aztec and Inca ruins, even Stonehenge in
England and so on? We have gone to great lengths to keep the things under them
secret, even to the extent of announcing the Stonehenge chamber find on April 1st
so everyone would think it was a joke.”
“The theories that they could not be constructed by
modern technology, so must have been of alien origin?” Erasmus smirked. “Surely
you aren’t going to give me a flying saucer story?”
“No.” Rooke’s face remained serious. “There was no
alien involvement. Those structures were built by, and most were deliberately
destroyed or buried by, humans. At a time long before our current ancestors
“I have heard the ideas put around that those
structures are so old, they must have been built while we were still making
flint tools. It is a difficult idea to put credence in.” Erasmus raised his
hand. “My apologies for the interruptions, Professor.”
“Not at all.” Rooke’s smile was tight and short
lived. “This tale is going to get a lot stranger before the end.” He closed his
eyes for a moment. “It was almost Utopia. One world, one language, one
government with very few laws and most people did what they liked. The Tower of
Babel story was almost real. No God did that, humanity broke itself apart
deliberately. To save itself, or so they believed. The tinfoil hatters are
partly right, but the loss of that advanced civilisation was not the result of
a cataclysm. Not a global flood, not an asteroid, nothing like that.” He opened
his eyes to look directly at Erasmus. “They destroyed it all themselves. All
their records, all their achievements, all their technologies. They, in fact,
tried to delete themselves from history and returned to the primitive life.
They weren’t ‘contemporary with cavemen’ They became those cavemen.
Erasmus shook his head. “Why?”
“They became morose.” Williams winced at Rooke’s
glare. “Sorry. A bad joke.”
Rooke sighed. “Bad, but essentially correct.” He
leaned forward on Erasmus’ desk. “They came to believe their technology was bad,
that it was destroying the planet, that they were heading for a global
catastrophe of their own making. It wasn’t true but they believed it and
‘morose’ is the reason. Or rather, Moros.”
Erasmus sat back in his chair, rummaging in his
brain for his memories of that name. “Moros was part of Greek mythology. He
brought mortals to their doom. I’d have to look up the details, I don’t
remember this particular character very well.”
“You won’t need to. Moros was a real entity. As
were most of those in the various pantheons of gods. Memories of the old times,
passed down and corrupted. Did you ever notice how every single religion has
one ‘chief’ god and then a lot of lesser gods, or angels, or demons, with
specific jobs? They are all memories of the same thing. The things the ancients
woke, or activated, or perhaps even created, with their technology.”
“You don’t know?” Erasmus raised one eyebrow.
“There are only fragments left. They did a very
good job of erasing themselves. We have a good picture but it’s incomplete.”
“I understand. So this Moros was human?” Erasmus
folded his arms and leaned forward, fascinated.
“No. We have not been able to determine exactly
what he, and others, were. They might have been in human form but they were not
human. They certainly didn’t like humans very much.” Rooke snorted. “They spent
their time convincing humanity it was doomed, on any level they could get a
grip on. They were the ones telling people they were causing their own
destruction and they were so convincing, so believable, that humans trying to
avoid their own destruction actually caused it.”
“So Moros led them to self-destruction, as the
legends say.” Erasmus sniffed. “However, I don’t see how this leads to what is
in the chambers. Is it the knowledge they tried to delete? If so, that would be
worth a great deal.”
Rooke shook his head. “We have some of their
technology but we dare not release it, nor use it. Something in their work
called up, or let loose, or created Moros and his gang of doomsayers and we
don’t know what it was. We do know they deliberately tried to destroy or hide
absolutely all of it but we don’t know which parts are dangerous.”
“Well, surely this Moros is long dead by now so you
can’t call him up again,” Erasmus said.
Prosser spluttered. “Aren’t you listening? Moros
might have been created by their technology so if we try to use it, we might
create another one. And this time we don’t know how to lock it away.”
“I was getting to that.” Rooke said. “It’s worse
than Doctor Prosser suggests. Moros, and his underlings, once created or
released or whatever happened, turned out to be immortal.”
Prosser piped up. “Also unkillable. The damn thing
is indestructible and that’s why we don’t want to accidentally make another.”
Erasmus whistled. “You’re telling me this Moros is
locked in one of those chambers, right?”
“Exactly right.” Rooke leaned further forward. “His
gang, his brood, whatever you want to call them, are in the other chambers.
Someone worked out how to snare them but we haven’t found any record of how
they did it. They erased everything and put humans back to the stone age to
“If they had the threat contained, why didn’t they
just go back to the way things were? Rebuild their civilisation?”
“When the lie gets big enough it cannot be
contained. Even when the originator is out of circulation. These were people,
just like us, with the same failings. They continued to believe they had to
shut everything down.” Williamson shrugged. “We don’t know for sure, of course,
but our best guess is that Moros was contained too late. Those who contained
him realised that they had to hide all evidence of what they had done and hope
no future generations ever found the chambers.”
Rooke smiled. “Curiosity doesn’t just kill cats,
Mr. Blackthorn. Your expedition could well kill everyone. If those things get
out, we don’t know how to put them back.” He sat back in his chair. “That is
why those chambers must never be opened. Or at least, not until we know how to
contain the things within them.”
Erasmus considered this. “I agree,” he said. “An
overt demon would commit atrocities, and humanity would react at once. A subtle
demon like Moros does not destroy. He incites people to destroy themselves. He
could build his plan over decades without being noticed. Sowing division and
hate and paranoia until humanity collapses under its own fear. I will of course
keep your secret and stop the dig as soon as Doctor Rarity calls me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Blackthorn.” Williams wore a look
of relief, as did the others. “Will you now tell us where he is digging?”
“In the one place I didn’t apply for permits. The
least known place of all the places so far discovered.” Erasmus grinned. “In
Croatia, Sevastopol. The buried pyramid discovered by Vitaly Goh in 2001.”
“Oh my God. We were just in time.” Prosser put his
face in his hands.
Rooke shut his eyes, tight. “It’s the least known
place because it’s the one we tried to keep most secret. It’s where Moros is
contained and if he gets out he can release all the others.”
Williamson scoffed. “He’d never get in. The pyramid
has a subsonic generator to deter humans and is loaded with asphyxiants. Try to
break through and you’ll die.”
“Fortunately, Doctor Goh documented these things
before the military took over the area.” Erasmus steepled his fingers. “I sent
Doctor Rarity in with full knowledge of those traps. And I’m afraid keeping
things secret is very difficult in this digital age. YouTube, in particular, is
becoming quite a resource.”
Rooke nodded. “The military have been in control of
the area since. They were instructed to leave it alone.” He looked at Erasmus.
“I suppose they have become lax, and open to bribery, since they started?”
Erasmus laughed. “Quite so. An army guarding a hole
in the ground for almost two decades does become easily distracted. It wasn’t
what they signed up for.”
“It’s no laughing matter.” Prosser scowled. “This conversation might just have saved us all from going back to another stone age, although this time Moros might have finished us. We might also have saved your life, Mr. Blackthorn. Moros has been in the box for tens of thousands of years. He will need sustenance. He’ll suck all the life out of the first person he hits when the door is open.”
“Damn this phone. Why is it taking so long?” Terry
glared at the screen, at the low bars of the reception indicator. “If we had
WiFi here we could have contacted him that way.”
“Military wouldn’t allow it in case we tapped into
their systems.” Charlie sat with his hands in his lap, staring at the floor.
“Do you think they know?”
“Of course they know. That corpse was in military
uniform. The same uniform they wear on the base.” Terry’s phone beeped. “At
last. Hello? I have to speak with Mr. Erasmus Blackthorn. It’s urgent.”
“That corpse looked mummified. Like it was a
thousand years old.” Charlie lowered his head. “How can that be?”
“Quiet, Charlie.” Terry waved his hand.
The woman’s voice on the phone said: “Mr.
Blackthorn is in a meeting. Can you call back?”
“No. No, this is very important. Tell him it’s
Doctor Rarity. He knows who I am and he’ll understand why it’s important I
speak to him at once.”
There was a pause. “I’ll get a message to him but I
don’t think he’ll be pleased. He doesn’t like being interrupted in meetings.
Appalling, tinny music drifted from the phone.
“Jesus H. Christ!” Terry forced his grip to relax in case he accidentally
crushed the phone in his fingers.
The woman’s voice returned, sounding rather less
pompous than before. “Mr. Blackthorn will take your call. I’m putting you
through, Doctor Rarity.”
Terry braced himself. This was likely to be the worst phone call of his life.
Erasmus opened a drawer in his desk and took out an
ashtray, lighter, and a box of cigars. “I think this meeting is a success,
don’t you, gentlemen?” He offered the cigars around. All three declined.
“Isn’t it illegal to smoke in your place of work?”
Prosser scowled at him.
“Probably.” Erasmus lifted a cigar and clipped the
ends. “Some of us just don’t care.”
“Perhaps we should have let you die when that
chamber opened. It would be one less smoker on the planet.” Prosser’s face
twisted in a sneer.
“Oh, I had no intention of opening it. No need,
really.” He lit his cigar. “You see, gentlemen, I wanted you here at this
precise moment for a reason. Have you been watching the news? Have you followed
the insanity of the world lately? It had a sudden onset, didn’t it?”
“What are you talking about?” Rooke narrowed his
“Well, sure, there has always been a low-level
insanity in society. That’s normal. The last decade or so though, it has ramped
up enormously. Didn’t you notice?” Erasmus took a puff and blew a blue cloud
into the air. “After your description of the end of that advanced civilisation,
did you really not notice?”
Williamson blinked. “Notice what?”
A light blinked on the phone. Cigar clamped in his
teeth, Erasmus checked the message on its LCD screen. ‘Dr. Rarity calling. Do I
put him through?’ Erasmus picked up the phone. “Yes, Melissa, put him on. He is
relevant to this meeting.” He put the phone on ‘speaker’ and replaced the
handset then answered Williamson. “Noticed what I’m about to tell you you
should have noticed. If only you scientists had put windows in those ivory
“What?” Rooke leaned forward. “Do you have information
we should know?”
“A great deal.” Erasmus grinned. “And some you’ll
never know. This information though, is something you would never have accepted
had I not set up this proof.”
“We are scientists.” Prosser’s sneer intensified.
“We deal in facts and reality, not the pipe dreams of some money-oriented
“Shut up, Prosser.” Rooke glared at him. “There’s
something going on here and we have to listen.”
getting the idea, Erasmus thought. The phone beeped to signal
a call coming through.
“Hello? Mr. Blackthorn?” Terry’s voice crackled
through the bad connection. “It’s Terry Rarity.”
Blackthorn took a puff of his cigar and relaxed in
his chair. “Yes, Doctor Rarity. You are speaking to me, Professor Rooke,
Professor Williamson and Doctor Prosser. You may speak freely.”
“Prosser? That arse?”
Erasmus feigned a coughing fit but noticed the
little smirk on Rooke’s face. “Yes, and as I said, we can all hear you.”
“Never mind. Look, we found the entrance and it’s
open. There’s nothing in there.”
Erasmus took a slow drag on his cigar. “I told you
not to open it until I was there.” His voice stayed calm. The other three did
“You opened it? You bloody idiot!” Prosser shouted.
“I didn’t open it. It was already open.” Terry
yelled from the speaker. “Listen. There’s a corpse, looks mummified but is in
modern military uniform. There’s a tunnel that Charlie reckons is no more than
ten to twenty years old. Someone beat us to it. Calm the hell down, I’m still
trying to get this into perspective in my head.”
“Would anyone like a whisky?” Erasmus opened
another drawer and lifted out a decanter and some glasses.
“You don’t seem to be at all surprised.” Rooke
shook his head. “You knew about this?”
“No, I didn’t know for sure, but I suspected.” Erasmus
poured himself a whisky then set the decanter on the desk. “Help yourselves,
gentlemen.” He tapped ash from his cigar. “This is exactly what I have been
“Expecting?” Terry shouted from the speaker. “You
sent me on a wild goose chase?”
“What the hell do you mean, you expected it?” Rooke
narrowed his eyes.
Erasmus held up his hands. “Gentlemen, please, calm
down. We can discuss this in a civil fashion.”
“You don’t seem to think there is any urgency.”
Prosser’s face had turned bright red. “Didn’t you listen?”
Erasmus sighed. “Doctor Rarity has already told us
that the chamber has been open for over a decade. The results you fear are
already under way.”
“What results? What’s going on?” Terry sounded
“Doctor Rarity, thank you for your work on this. I
will of course continue to fund the expedition, although you might want to let
the military know they have a body down there.”
“But the chamber—”
“Is empty, yes.” Blackthorn steepled his fingers.
“There is still the matter of the subsonic generator. Find that, and it’s
likely to be worth a fortune.”
“Well…” Terry muttered.
“Take a few days off. Give your staff a break too.
You’ll need to let the military collect the corpse anyway.”
There was a pause. “Okay.” Terry sounded calmer.
“Thanks, Mr. Blackthorn.”
“Keep me updated. Goodbye for now, Doctor Rarity.”
Blackthorn switched off the phone. He faced the others. “Well, gentlemen, we
can talk now. I suspect this matter is not something we should be letting
Doctor Rarity know about yet, given his delight in publicity.”
“Absolutely.” Williams nodded.
“That publicity hound would have it on every front
page.” Prosser sneered.
Rooke leaned forward. “Why are we here, Mr.
Blackthorn? You seem to already know everything.”
“Not at all,” Erasmus said. “I knew the chambers
existed, of course. Every late-night geek rummaging on YouTube knows about
them. However, I had no idea what was in them. I congratulate you on keeping
that part very quiet, by the way. I really didn’t know about Moros and his gang
of dark whisperers. In fact, I doubt I would ever have thought of that name. He
was a very minor character in the mythology we are taught nowadays. No, all I had
was a feeling that the buried pyramid in Croatia was likely to have been
breached. The little I had heard of the place made it, logically, almost
inevitable. I didn’t know what was in there but I had a feeling something was
“Just feelings? That’s a thin reason to pay for an
archaeological expedition.” Prosser blinked. “You must have had more?”
Erasmus nodded. “I have noticed a massive increase
in what I would term ‘general lunacy’ all over the world. It started in the
early 2000s. So I began searching for a link, something big, something that
happened around that time. Vitaly Goh’s discovery was the biggest anomalous
event of the time and it was being kept rather quiet, I thought.”
“But he didn’t open the chamber. He didn’t get very
far at all.” Rooke shrugged. “Once we realised what he had found, we persuaded
the government of the time to declare it a military base and close it. That put
a stop to his and all other digs. Until now.”
“Not quite.” Erasmus pursed his lips. “You didn’t
think it through, you know. That pyramid contains a subsonic generator that has
operated with no apparent power source for tens of thousands of years. Clearly,
this is something of interest to a weapons technologist and most definitely of
interest to the military.” He paused for breath. “Gentlemen, you put a military
base on top of a potentially useful weapon and told them to leave it alone. Of
course they didn’t leave it alone.”
“Oh, shit.” Rooke put his face in his hands.
“My guess is that they opened it within a year of
you closing it down. Which means Moros was released in 2002 or 2003. Which fits
with when the world really started cracking up.” Erasmus took a sip of his
whisky and stubbed out his cigar.
“Doesn’t make sense,” Williamson said. “If they got
as far as opening it and lost a man in the process, why didn’t they carry on
looking for that generator?”
“As with all of this, we can only guess at most of
it.” Erasmus refilled his glass. “Maybe Moros caused them to forget what was
down there. Maybe they were scared – soldiers are human too, remember. Maybe
they decided to close the dig until they could find another way in. Maybe…
maybe they thought they’d let some actual archaeologists do the job and pick up
the device when they found it.” He waved his hand. “Any guess is as good as any
other at this point.”
“And none of them matter.” Prosser glowered. “Moros
is out, and has been for almost two decades. He’s had plenty of time to release
all the others. Who knows what they might have been doing?”
Erasmus snorted. “Really? After all you’ve just
told me? You don’t know what they’ve been up to?” He held up his hand and
unfolded one finger at a time. “The planet is doomed unless we give up all our
technology. People are splitting into smaller and smaller factions and fighting
over differences that really don’t matter. People are outraged if someone
utters one word out of place.” He closed his hand and banged the desk. “And so
much more. How could you not have noticed, when you were the ones with the
answer to why it was happening?”
Rooke still had his hands over his face. He lowered
them to reveal new lines in his skin. “We thought the chambers were intact. We
“Ha!” Erasmus bared his teeth. “And if you had
known where Doctor Rarity was digging, you would have blocked it and we still
wouldn’t know.” He sighed. “Well there’s no point getting angry about it.
Pandora’s box is open.”
Williamson laughed, a hollow sound. “Box? This is
Pandora’s entire luggage set for a year-long round-the-world cruise. We were
supposed to be the baggage handlers and we’ve lost the lot.”
Erasmus stood and leaned on his desk. “Gentlemen, I
will need access to every bit of that ancient technology you have deciphered.
Every fragment, no matter how apparently inconsequential. If we are to put this
thing back in its box, we need every clue available, and it is not going to be
easy. Whatever trick those ancient people used to get Moros and his horde
contained will not work again. We have to know what that trick was, and how
they made those containment chambers.” He stared at the three stunned faces
before him. “What do we do first?”
Rooke eyed the decanter. “I think I’d like to
accept that drink now.”