Tech1 called me very early this morning and I am meeting him at one of Arizona's many old abandoned mines out in the middle of nowhere. Another place where no satellite paths cross. Yal-hune and Skuuinja were still sleeping, so I left them a message that I would return with breakfast. The sun is just starting to rise in the East and I have to say it's magnificent. The red rocky cliffs give off a rosy glow as the first rays of light bathe across their surfaces.
The highways are almost traffic free and I make record time up to the remains of a small ghost town known only as Vulture Valley. Most people don't even know this place exists. You can't see it from any highway and there is absolutely no sane reason to head off major roads in the desert -especially during 1/2 the year when its way too hot - and so this ghost town has been lost to everyone, even hikers, explorers and history buffs. We have the GPS mapped and so returning to Vulture Valley means having an effective four wheel drive vehicle, emergency water and a lot of gasoline in the tank.
All that's left is the wooden frame remains of a water tower, the stone foundations of a store and a post office. There's supposed to be a long abandoned mineshaft around here, but those are deadly and no one has ever looked for it. As ghost towns go, this one would be a huge disappointment for tourists, but for secret meetings away from satellites with realtime thermal imagery, it's been a great meeting place.
I see Tech1's White Hummer and I pull my Escalade up alongside.
I get out of the car. Tech1 is sitting on the crumpled remains of a wall and watching the pink and purple clouds in the distance as the sun rises.
"So what's up? What's so urgent and secret that it required a hour's drive to this godforsaken place?"
"Isis went rogue. She took Encyclopedia Brown with her."
"Yep. And that's not the worst of it. She took the formulas for Atlan-98 and other chemical breakthroughs out of the system. They have billions of dollars worth of technology and I don't know where they are."
"Two days after Christmas - the 27th. I wasn't sure until yesterday though when I sent two undercover sweeper teams to their residences."
"Did they leave any messages?"
"Nothing important. Just one word was left on Isis screensaver - 'bye' - and I've sent a computer forensics team to reconstruct the past few weeks interactions, inputs and outputs. So far nothing significant, but they are still trying to reconstruct. Encyclopedia Brown's computer was completely erased - and no one knows how, as the system is supposed to have seven layers of safeguarding to prevent even an intentional wipe."
"So what else have you done?"
"Nothing. I wanted to talk to you privately. If I pursue them and they're caught they face a lifetime in prison or depending upon what they do with that data - charges of treason."
"Unbelievable. For two off-the-charts smart people they made the most stupid move possible."
"What should I do? What would YOU do? You know I really hate you for leaving. None of this would've happened if you were still there."
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. I'll talk to Yal-hune. If she agrees I'm sure we could find them instantly. I just have my doubts about her cooperation. She opts over privacy and individual liberty every time and what's more she knows that's what I love about her."
"I'm afraid of who will find them before we do. That Atlan-98, alone, is a trillion dollar technology. With all that's locked up in Encyclopedia's photographic mind - my God - a freaking fortune for the arms dealer, Communist ruler, KGB turned mafia businessman - you name it! They are in dire jeopardy on their own."
"They're not fools they must have some well thought out plan. We just need to find out what it is and prevent them from executing it."
"Freeze. Don't move a muscle."
Tech1 pulls out a handgun and puts a round through the head of a quiet diamondback rattler sneaking up on me.
"Damn things. They should be dormant this time of the year."
"That's the lesson for today. Expect the unexpected. Creatures large and small are never predictable."
"Who all knows about their departure?"
"Just the top tier at SDAI. Some of the scientists in the research projects are wondering why they haven't shown up for the past few days, but I am going to say they were called off those projects to work on another."
"Good. Lockdown that information and change the codes on all things you can change codes for. Make sure reliable guards are stationed with the MIMIR artifacts 24/7. Was an inventory conducted?"
"That was one of the first things I did. Five Atlantean texts are missing - the ones Isis had in her possession and clearance to study. All her research papers are gone too. She cleared out her offices very thoroughly. I can't stand that they did this to me - on my watch. They just didn't give a damn about me I guess."
"Don't blame yourself or think this was personal. I already had enough shouting matches with Isis. She would've done this to me too. You should've heard the names she called me."
"Yes. I was a 'heartless bastard' in her eyes when I didn't want to release the Atlantean history. I suspect that's going to be their first move. Put taps on the phones of every university, museum, magazine or news organization that deals with science and history. Have the Carnivore and BigBro systems scan every single email in existence for keywords like Atlantis, lost civilization and any other word or combination of words you think might pop up some sort of communication."
"Good idea. Why didn't I think of that?"
"Because you've only been Tech1 for a few months."
"What do we do if and when we find them?"
"If I were still Tech1 I would retrieve the data, books and give them a choice - come back to work and no more running away or prosecution. I think that would be a pretty easy choice for them to make. They're not traitors - they're rebels. Their personality matrixes preclude them from selling the data, they simply want to share this history with the world and are naive enough to think the world would be different after they do share it. They're young idealists."
Tech1 laughs, "God, we were young idealists too at one time."
"Yes, but time is the cure for that."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I've followed your blog. You're still a god damned idealist. You split SDAI to have even more fun - and now you're visiting worlds where everyone is an idealist. You're two-face pal, half of you is pure cynicism and the other half is still idealistic and never gave up believing that you can make a difference."
"You read the blog?"
"Of course I read your damn blog! How else would I know what's going on in your life? You certainly don't share that stuff with your oldest friends!"
"You're harboring another illegal alien? Has her cell types and blood even had any basic screening by any of our health people?"
"Trust me...if there was a safety hazard they would know about it,identify it and mitigate it far faster than we could."
"Yeah...I know...it's just YOU used to be the 'never trust anyone to do something that you can do yourself' guy. Now you're..."
"I know what I'm doing. And I know what I've said over the years. Circumstances change."
"Apparently they do - for you anyways. Thirty people throughout the Agency must read that blog every damn day."
"Maybe. I don't worry about that stuff."
"You should. If Isis and Encyclopedia manage to get some of that stuff into somebodies museum or university - you better delete your whole damn blog overnight. Suddenly you lose plausible deniability and everybody will be swooping down on you, Yal-hune, Skuuinja and what was that other aliens name? Oh yeah, Kepra-la? They will be all over them like stink on garbage."
"Yal-hune has abilities beyond anything I can even imagine. She probably already knew, word for word, this conversation before it even began. She knows futures, parallel universes and much more. She's orchestrating far more than I even realize - and I realize she's been busy orchestrating a LOT. She knows outcomes. Think about it...think of what that means. In her mind she sees all these parallel streams of this world and its destiny. She can gently nudge or, if she needs to, push people in the right direction so that they avoid the worse outcomes."
"But do you want to have to count on that? Five years ago, we're up in the air over Iran - would you have trusted someone else to 'know' which way to turn the plane to avoid their radar and tracking system?"
"That was then. This is now. I trust Yal-hune."
"Do you trust her more than you trust yourself?"
"In some things...yes."
"Hey, do you still have that teleportation device?"
"Have you asked Yal-hune about it? What's it's range? Can you teleport anywhere? Is it pre-programmed or can it be reprogrammed? Does it work by itself or with some other alien system?"
"Jeez-louise. I don't know yet. I haven't asked her to provide me with the spec-sheets. Besides, when one knows Yal-hune can teleport using her mind alone, suddenly devices seem primitive."
"Trust me...teleportation devices are NOT primitive. If we had those here on Earth - my god! Think about it. Everything that's shipped now could be transported instantly to its destination. No rail cars, trucks, ships or planes required. The pollution savings, the time saving. It would revolutionize Earth - probably as much as electricity did and maybe more."
"Yes. But what about the bombs beamed around? Or the armies. Or the valuable resources beamed out of a location? The good would be offset by evil in a heartbeat. You know that. Earth is not ready for teleportation. The planet is still savage and mentally atrophied."
"Now your cynical side emerges, eh Two-face?"
"Not cynical, realistic. I've got to leave and you've got to set up those system searches."
"Yeah, yeah...a big date with Yal-hune, Skuuinja or maybe Kepra-la? Don't let me keep you buddy."
"Yeah...maybe...or maybe I'll just go home and write about you in my blog."
"Yeah. If you do don't forget to say that I'm p---ed off at all these alien women for picking only one guy to visit! And that if Yal-hune has any more cousins, identical twins, friends or whatever - they're more than welcome to appear in MY damn home and tell me what a bastard I've been!"
"Sure. I won't forget it."
I laugh and Tech1 is laughing at his own humor as well.
"I'll stop by to check on things in a day or two. Have a happy New Year."
"Thanks, you too. By that time I should hopefully have some results and leads."
I get back into my Escalade and watch as Tech1 drives off in his Hummer. As I make my way out of Vulture Valley I quietly curse myself for not having put Isis to a more productive task before I left - one that might have given her more satisfaction and some sort of visible meaningful difference she could embrace to satisfy her.
Oh well. Things never go as planned and one has to put a smile on it. Like Tech9 used to say after recognizing we entered a combat zone, "It's Party Time."