The phone rings. It's ODIN.
Normally we get a 4 hour heads up before a major operation. Not today.
One of SDAI's mission objectives is only tangentially related to national security. It's the collection and analysis of objects that pre-date all recorded history or are made of materials that do not react to any known atomic elements testing. These objects are kept in various facilities around the US and the world. Shamballa, here has it's own warehouse and when I have the time I peruse these objects. One, a nude that looks like an elongated human female, is sculpted in a completely unknown metal that looks like translucent gold or silver, depending on which angle you look at it, is the only one of its kind in the world and I, and others who've tested it, seriously suspect it's not from this world at all.
Occasionally we get a break and the conventional military we have stationed around the world stumble upon artifacts. Our presence in Iraq has been a historical goldmine. I have sitting on my desk a sculpture carved somewhere carbon dating has placed between 55-65th century BC. A small organization has been developed to piece together this missing human history and come up with a timeline for the many thousands of years not recorded by current texts.
The Techs suit up. A custom B-1-SDAIB is already warmed up and on the tarmac. We have to break some speed records to get to where we are going. Fortunately, the SDAIB has two more engines than a conventional B-1B and is the fastest fuel-powered plane in the world, bar none.
We take off and it's like taking off in any conventional jet until the other engines are throttled once airborne, then it's like some huge invisible hand presses you into your flightchair and seems to squish you in place. Oxygen masks and full pressurized suits are worn in the cabin for safety sake and to provide proper oxygen/nitrogen rates. The pressurized cabin hisses constantly to balance pressure as the speed exceeds Mach 5 and you find yourself swallowing every half minute to ease the pressure change that disturbs the cochlear nerve.
"Where are we going?" Tech6 asks over the headset.
"To boldly go where no man has gone before." Tech2 answers and he begins to hum the opening music from Star Trek TOS.
En route Tech2 makes a quick dash over Egypt and we can see the pyramids, in our headset monitors, far below us. Fortunately, it is night and identification of this plane is difficult. Within several minutes we are entering Iranian airspace. Our course takes over desert and mountain regions with few villages. We have descended to 200 feet over the ground and have reduced to sub-sonic. No need to grab any locals attention with an ear-cracking sonic boom. It feels like we are driving on the ground. Tech2's piloting skills are a credit to the entire nation. My split-monitor in front of me now shows tactical maps of the mountains ahead.
Not a peep out of the Russo-Chinese designed Iranian air defense and tracking system. Good. Very good.
In 10 minutes we are landing in the vast Kasht-E Kavir salt desert. Fortunately, we have the very latest PEGASUS X4 quadro-landing gear setup. This allows us to sacrifice up to three sets of gear and tires with take offs/landings in unsuitable terrain and still have a final set to land with before servicing and repair. This is very good because all but two of the tires have burst and this 1st gear is no longer suitable for taking off. We emerge from the craft. I look around and wonder what treasure could be found in this desolate, arid region.
"About two dozen camels and riders are heading this way and they are heavily armed with...what look like...yes definitely Kalishnikov RPK-74's and some other unidentifiable stuff."
"The welcoming commitee."
I tell tech's 8 & 14 to stay with the plane and for one of them to activate the rotating high capacity gun under the belly of the plane. A C-130H Raptor is over the Caspian Sea after having come from near Baku, in Azerbaijan
"Good idea. One can never be too careful." Tech8 replies.
In three minutes the camels have brought our hosts to us. They are Iranian, but not friendly with the existing government and work with the US and other nations clandestinely. Several of the men have their rifles pointed at us. Our combat suits could take a few slugs if necessary, but I'd prefer not to test them out.
"Iyi -e doğru görmek sen! nereye yapmak sen gelmek!"
I ask where the leader is from in Turkish. My Farsi is very bad and sometimes it helps to speak a language both parties are semi-proficient in. Most of the nomads here will speak Turkish and Dari besides Farsi. The folks in this line of work also know and speak Russian fluently. My Turkish is very rusty but he seems to understand. He names a city that sounds made up: "Gonabad".
Our team and his men exchange Salams and we are to be taken on camelback to the object we have come to bid on.
I don't like camels. As a child they seemed fine enough. Reading Tintin and the Crab with the Golden Claws made them seem a fine alternative to a horse. (Only later did I learn Herge was Belgian...and you can trust a Belgian to overlook inhuman conditions. ;-) They are not! The smell! Camel odor is heinous and suddenly burkhas and face covering cloth makes a lot of sense.
"For King and country!" I shout as I mount.
"I did not realize America had a king?" The leader turns to me and smiles, "unless they now call him king George?"
"I'll be damned. Perfect English."
"Not perfect. But better than your Turkish!"
"My Turkish is good enough for Turkeys. So how far do we have to travel?" I ask.
"Not far - one hour's distance."
The hour passes slowly. After half an hour my olfactory nerve centers shut down. I can't imagine why anyone would ever go vacationing in Iran. I can't smell the camels now - or anything else. We travel through many mountain passes and the elevation gets higher. The camels struggle under the weight of both riders and our team and they wheeze through their big, ugly teeth and nostrils.
"Here we are!"
I get off and scan the scene. So many cubby holes for snipers and as I look up I see heads quickly moving out of sight. We still are armed but this would be a short firefight if these guys are not on the level.
"Relax! You are a customer. We treat our customer's very well. Like Sak's on Fifth Avenue!"
With this his men start laughing and guffawing. They speak English too and they find a store named "Saks" a particularly amusing US joke.
"So where is it?" I ask getting down to business.
"This way. Follow me."
Our team follows and around a huge boulder is the opening to a cave. It has been recently excavated, as I can see fresh sand in piles in the distance as well as digging, surveying and archaeological tools. I pull a flashlight out of a zipper near the top of my boot. There are torches lighting the way but the light is still very dim and hard to see in. We are descending and suddenly the tunnel widens and opens into a enormous cavern. It is gorgeous! Stalagmites of countless lengths and varied purple-pinkish-brown hues, formed over centuries and centuries, descend from the cavern roof. A steady stream of water, probably from the winter season, must reach this elevation and sink into this mountain cliff.
We follow a freshly made trail which leads to another tunnel off of the main cavern. Walls, ancient and smooth, appear along this tunnels passage. Hieroglyphs unlike any I've seen still clearly mark the walls. I pull out a digital camera and snap a few shots. All photographs I take are already being wirelessly transmitted to the Raptor which will relay them back to Shamballa and Valhalla. Even these mountain walls can't stop the cameras super long wave length transmission.
"That's nothing. We're almost there."
I return to follow and suddenly the passage opens up into an enormous seven-sided geometric room. It is unbelievable! The roof travels up to a prism at least a hundred feet above. The prism is catching daylight from outside and sprinkling it down here. At least I assume that is what it is doing.
The room is made of the same translucent silver/gold metal we've encountered in the past. It almost glows and as my flashlight passes the walls - the light - is regenerated! The light lingers in the metal and pulses...almost as if the metal is alive. An image of the earth is present along one wall! It is perfect! It shimmers with a blue green tinge inside this weird metal! Mathematically precise even to the tilt of the axis! Images of the beings who carved this are also present! They must be 11 feet tall and look humanoid. In the center of the room is a dais and on this dais is a flame. It looks unlike any flame I've ever seen before and is about a foot in height, 2 inches at the base and comes to a perfect point at the end, no matter how it pulses. It seems like a laser but it is far too variable and flexible. I cannot find what fuels this flame and I have the strange feeling it has been pulsing here for many millennia, unattended.
It is simply unreal. I've never seen the like. And I can't forget to take pictures! I start taking pictures of the flame and of the entire room. Tech2 is standing beside me, his jaw is hanging open.
"Captain, the technology here is far in advance of anything we have. I should say that whoever built this are as far above us on the evolutionary scale...as we are above the amoeba."
Then it occurs to me. This is not something we can simply pack up and take back to Shamballa. We could try to carve up and extract some of the wall perhaps, but it almost feels like that would be sacrilege, if anything could ever be sacrilegious. From experience we also know this metal is not easily carved up. It's apparent atomic density makes it tougher than diamonds.
"You like what you see? So what is it worth? We wanted to offer it to you rich Americans first. The Russians don't pay as well."
"It is hard to say. However based upon cursory evaluation I can offer you 5 million dollars."
"5 million? Too low. I could probably even get the Russians to pay double that!"
"Ok. Twenty million dollars. But we want ground support and security here for the next few weeks as we try to figure out what to do with this."
We shake hands. I unzip a pocket on my side and pull out 2 million dollars in 100,000 dollar treasury notes. Woodrow Wilson almost seems to smile.
"And now that our dealings are concluded favorably I show you the most amazing part of your deal."
Tech2 looks up nervously and reaches unconsciously for his XM8. However a quick death was not what our hosts had in mind. The leader walks over to the flame and puts his hand into it...
...the flame goes right through his hand as if it was not there!
I walk over to the flame and I pull off my glove. I slowly reach out towards the flame...and then I thrust my hand into it. It feels strange and unearthly and I sense it is the key to this whole room. Images start racing through my mind. Distant places, beings and cities from a world far removed from this one. Suddenly I can see the people who built this room...and in flashes the meaning of the inscription on the dais becomes ever more clear. This room was meant to be found by man. And when we decipher these walls we will learn the true history of this world...and this flame....this flame....is the eternal flame of life and it has been placed on this world and many other worlds like earth....
"Are you all right!"
I see Tech2 and Tech12 hover over me, concern in their eyes. I am on my back.
"You reached out and touched the flame, you screamed something and fell to the floor. You've been out for the past fifteen minutes and yet there is not a mark on your hand. Was it hot? Did it give you a shock?"
"I'm all right. Let's take some more pictures and then let's get out of here. We have to get airborne before dawn or there'll be hell to pay."
I get up and pick up the flashlight that had fallen down beside me. I see the light flicker above and as I exit the room I hear the howl of the winds as they pass through these mountain passes. There will now be sand and dust to contend with on the ride back...and of course...