A Matter of Timing now available

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  1. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 11


    The television got their attention and both turned to watch again. The reporter was excited. “We can now see a swell of water several miles out. Our cameras are at their maximum level of magnification, and we apologize for any shaking of the image from the helicopter vibration. If you look closely, you can see where the water actually seems to be bulging upward.”

    “Look at that!” was all Ty could say.

    Laura pointed to the canister she’d put down on the end of the bar. She looked back at Ty and asked, “What would you say if I told you that metal object right there had something to do with all of this stuff going on? The volcano eruption and the earthquake. And now, maybe a tsunami. Would you think I was crazy?”

    He didn’t really know what to say. He looked at the metal tube, back at Laura, and then to the canister again. He stifled a chuckle because he realized she was serious.

    He said, “I’ve seen some very strange things, but I don’t think a metal tube, laying in my basement, has anything to do with what we’re seeing on the TV right now.”

    It was a more positive response than Laura had expected. At least he hadn’t told her she was completely nuts.

    She frowned and looked in Ty’s eyes. “I’m not kidding, and if you give me a chance to explain, maybe you’ll believe me.”

    Ty finished his beer with a big swig. “I’m all ears. But maybe we should wait until something happens or not on TV, then go sit outside and talk. Don’t laugh, but I’ve got a favorite stump out there that I can think better on.”

    He laughed when he said it, knowing how that sounded. “Now it’s your turn to think I’m the one that’s crazy.”

    Laura did laugh, but more at how he said it than the idea of him sitting on a stump in the woods. Somehow, that appealed to a part of her that loved nature. Her thoughts drifted quickly to days long gone. Her youth camping trips, nature walks with her Mom and two brothers, hiking at the Arch’s National Park when she was in high school. In the few seconds that was required for her to flash back all those years, she knew she’d love to sit in some peaceful woods and talk with this man.

    A commercial break finished on the TV and the picture returned to the helicopter. The reporter was shouting over the sound of its rotors.

    “The swell is getting larger! We’re told it will get higher as it hits shallow water. It’s running in a straight line north to south as far as the eye can see, and headed directly at the large island!”

    There was a moment pause while the camera tried to pan back and forth on the wave. Then the reporter continued, “We’ve turned and are now trying to keep pace with it, but it is outrunning our helicopter! Anyone watching us now in Hilo and the other cities on the islands should immediately take cover on high ground if you already haven’t! The swell in the water is getting much taller but there is no way to know how big it’s going to be by the time it hits.”

    The camera was zoomed in, trying to keep pace with the wave but by the time the reporter had finished describing what was going on, the wave was nearly out of site.

    “Damn that was fast!” Ty exclaimed. “It ran right by the chopper.”

    “I feel horrible. All those people in Hawaii…” Laura’s voice was so quiet, Ty could hardly hear what she said.

    “It’s like watching 911 all over again,” Ty said flatly.

    The chopper’s camera was now showing the wave again, as if the water was slowing down or the camera was moving faster toward it. “Oh my God!” exclaimed the reporter. “There it is, forming up and out of the water as it gets closer to land. It must be at least eighty feet tall! It looks as if Hilo Bay and Richardson Beach are directly in the tsunami’s path!”

    Now the wave was clearly visible on the screen. Ty realized he was hardly breathing. He glanced at Laura, whose eyes were riveted on the television screen. The news broadcast shifted to another helicopter that was near Hilo Bay, as it was scanning all of the beautiful houses that lined the beachfront.

    It showed the wave coming right at it. Then the shot changed again to the chopper in pursuit of the wave from the ocean’s perspective. Ty and Laura both held their breath as the wave smashed in to the island at over two hundred miles an hour.

    The expensive homes and resorts on the Kahola coast were immediately swallowed up by the initial impact of the wave. Ty thought the water itself should be blue, but it was a foamy brown, covering the beach in a second and moving inland almost faster than the mind could register everything happening in the scene. Hilo Bay was gone, resorts and lodges drowned in the largest tsunami to hit the Big Island in recorded history.

    Then the camera shot changed to one further inland, halfway up the mountain that is home of the Mauna Kea observatory. Over 13,000 feet high on a dormant volcano, a camera crew had set up to get a higher view of the tsunami. From this perspective, it was as if a movie was being filmed using model buildings and a huge water supply to wipe it out. The camera panned down as the wave moved across the island, taking trees, the botanical garden, the Hilo market and everything in its path. For over thirty seconds, Ty and Laura watched the water roll across the beauty and majesty that God had created seemingly for man’s sheer enjoyment.

    In sixty seconds, it was all a memory.

    The tsunami slowed as it reached a mile inland and lost much of its power. The secondary wave came ashore less than a quarter-mile behind the big one, but there was little left for it to damage. All it did was add water volume to an already incredible catastrophe of Biblical proportions.

    “I hope those people were able to get far away from the shoreline,” Ty said quietly. He felt speaking was awkward, as if it was disrespectful to those who had just died in Hawaii.

    “They had over two hours’ notice,” Laura said, turning to look at him. “And they’ve dealt with tsunamis in the past, so maybe it will just be a matter of rebuilding the structures. But what a shame it had to happen.” She finished her wine and held out her glass in a request for a refill. Ty poured her another glass.

    As he was topping it off, Laura looked him in the eyes and said, “Now, let’s talk. I can’t stand to watch any more of this on the TV.”

    “Alright,” Ty said, grabbing another can of beer. “Let’s go outside. You have my interest peaked, that’s for sure.”

    He turned off the television and they both walked outside. It was a hot muggy August afternoon, but in the shade of the tall hickory and oak trees with a slight breeze moving through the timber, it was quite comfortable. Ty picked up a folding lawn chair as they walked past the deck.

    He pointed over to a stand of trees, on another point about a hundred feet from the cabin. “Dad’s favorite sitting stump is over there. You have a seat on it, and I’ll sit in this chair.” Laura followed him through the trees, marveling at their size and beauty. Ty motioned to a stump as they neared a natural point that was still on flat ground, but declined quickly into the ravine below that held the creek.

    “Dad sits here a lot when he has big decisions to make. Says it helps him think. And I can’t disagree, I’ve felt good sitting on it at times myself. Please have a seat.”

    Laura nodded and sat down on the stump. She thought it must have been at least two feet across. It had been sanded and varnished with great effort, and an old, thin leather-covered tractor seat was tacked in the center of the stump. She folded her legs Indian style and gazed across the ravine while Ty set up the folding chair next to her aimed the same direction she was looking.

    “Beautiful, ain’t it?” Ty asked quietly.

    “Like a picture on a postcard,” Laura replied. “Like I said earlier, I can’t believe nature this beautiful exists in the middle of Midwest farmlands. I had no idea.”

    Ty laughed. Then he got a more serious look on his face and asked, “Alright. Tell me about this metal thing you’re carrying around and how it relates to that tsunami we just saw.”

    Laura paused, wanting to get her words just right. She decided to start at the beginning, explaining that she and two of her students had been collecting samples at the lake’s edge and underwater in the mushroom caves. She told him about finding the canister in the cave and discovering how she’d opened it quite by accident.

    Ty was listening without interrupting as she explained in great detail about the scroll that rolls out perfectly flat, the icons of disasters etched or painted in the metal. She described the first one she’d focused on that had turned out to be Mount Vesuvius, and how she considered it too much of a coincidence the volcano had erupted the same morning she’d seen it. Then she described her first dream, being in Pompeii during the eruption, and talking with an old Indian man in her dream.

    “Wait a minute,” Ty interrupted her. “An old Indian?” Ty thought back trying to recollect his dream while he was fishing the day before. He looked at Laura and smiled. “You’re not going to believe this, but I think I had a dream about an old man, could’ve been an Indian, the night before last. I’ve tried to remember what the dream was about but can’t.”

    Laura smiled. She pointed her index finger at him and said, “There’s not anything I’d consider weird at this point in time, Ty.” She gave Ty an exact description of what the old Indian was wearing and what he looked like.

    Then she went on talking about the volcano dream and her dream last night when the old Indian had told her that she must seek out Ty for protection while she attempts to get the canister returned to the cave. She talked for ten minutes and Ty was listening intently. She told the entire story while she looking across the ravine, glancing at Ty now and then to make sure he wasn’t giving her strange looks.

    When she’d finished, she spun around on the stump and looked directly into Ty’s eyes, waiting for his reaction.

    He just sat there in the lawn chair without much of an expression on his face. Laura was worried that he had already written her off as a nut case. But she was pleased with how she’d explained it. Her thoughts were very lucid and the phrasing had come more easily than usual. In the back of her mind, she was wondering if the stump didn’t hold some special energy.
    She looked down at the ground and said, “I know it’s an incredible story and sounds unbelievable. But I swear to you that all these things happened and I don’t know what else to do other than follow the old Indian’s directions. And that’s why I’m here.”

    She looked back up at Ty with a slight expression of pleading in her eyes. Not begging, but asking him to believe her.

    Ty looked at her squarely in the eyes. Laura felt honesty and trust coming from him. She sincerely wanted him to believe her, whether he chose to help or not.

    He nodded slowly, “I believe you.” His expression was earnest.

    Laura was so pleased she wanted to jump up off the stump and hug him. She was feeling an energy inside that she thought was a culmination of being believed, sitting in nature here, and in the presence of this very nice man. She thought again perhaps there was something special about the tree stump.

    Laura stood up and said, “If you can help me get back to Lake Mississippi, I’ll see if we can put a stop to this disaster madness.”

    “Sure, I’ll help. I’ve got a car. We can head out tomorrow morning. I don’t know what the Indian meant by providing protection, but I’ll do whatever I can.”

    Being a modest man, Ty hadn’t mentioned anything to Laura about his past, special forces sniper, decorated twice, war hero. To him, it was just his patriotic duty to America, and he never liked to talk about it, especially with strangers. His Dad had always taught him that humble modesty is the way to tread on the Earth, and never to take your life’s blessings for granted.
    “May I use your cell phone Ty?” Laura asked, pointing at it. “I’d like to check on Josh and Katie to see if they’re doing okay.”

    “I’ll do you one better than that,” Ty said. “You’re going to need things from your wrecked car and I’ll take you in to town this evening to get it. Dive gear and stuff. We can stop at the hospital and you can check on them in person. Sound good?”

    Laura was go glad she’d found Ty. “That’s great!” she exclaimed. “Want to go now?”

    Ty nodded, “Sure, after I finish a couple things in the barn. Let’s go refresh our drinks and I’ll be finished real quick.”

    As they walked back into the cabin, Laura asked him about what had happened immediately following the earthquake in July. He explained a little about Jack Brannan, the CNN reporter, and his report of the Iranian terrorist plot that was spoiled during the chaos that had resulted following the quake. He told her about the militias and National Guard saving many lives by guarding the hospitals against pillagers, drug dealers and biker gangs. He talked briefly about his spotter buddy Bob, who’d gone to Peoria instead of heading to Greenville.

    Laura had wanted to know what a spotter was, so Ty explained in a little more detail about he and Bob’s role in Desert Storm, and that he’d helped do some troop training in the early phases of the second Iraq invasion.

    After hearing Ty’s vague and modest description of his roles, she said, “It’s apparent to me why the old Indian sent me to you. He said you could protect the scroll and me. And I believe he was right.”

    Ty laughed at her assumption. “Well, if you can tell me how a guy in dreams that I’ve never met can be right in telling you to seek me out, I’d like to hear it.”

    Laura didn’t want to argue with him, but to her it was very clear. “He knew your name, Ty. He knew what town you were in. He said you’re a protector. And look at your military background! It’s pretty simple, in my way of thinking.”

    Then she smiled a little grin and said, “He also said you weren’t any good at remembering dreams. He told me to expect this.”

    Ty laughed as he opened the cabin door for her to walk in to the basement. “Yeah, sure! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that most people can’t remember dreams. I’m just one more of’em.”

    Laura smiled at his levity. She knew he was kidding, because he’d believed her when she’d explained her dreams of the old Indian.

    “Okay, be that way,” Laura gently socked him on the arm as she walked by him through the door.

    She got her wine glass refilled and Ty grabbed another Stag. “Just a little while in the barn and we’ll go to town,” Ty said.

    They walked back down the lane toward the barn through the timber, past the clover field and garden. Once in the barn, Laura piddled with the foosball table hitting the ball back and forth by herself while Ty worked on the Super-C tractor.

    After a few minutes, Ty stood up from being under the tractor and said, “So, professor, its your turn to tell me more about yourself,” as he wiped grease off a wrench casually.

    She nodded agreement. “Okay, that’s fair.” Laura told him about her background at the U of I, how she loved archaeology and the study of history.

    Ty stood up from sitting next to the tractor and walked over to the workbench, hanging tools back in their place.

    “You’ve left out the best stuff,” Ty teased with a grin. “Husbands? Boyfriends? Kids?”

    Laura looked down at the foosball table. She said, “Okay, I’ll go first. Then you, all right?”

    Ty agreed with a nod.

    Laura explained, “Married for three years after I got my bachelor’s degree, no kids. It didn’t work out. He was pretty demanding and didn’t appreciate the time necessary to get a master’s while student teaching and working part-time at the local Wal-Mart. He was a computer geek, did networks and stuff. He got laid off in a downsize and started drinking too much. He beat me up pretty badly one night when I’d been working on campus grading papers late. That sealed it. I’ve been single for about seven years. I don’t have much time for dating or playing that game. All my energy goes in to geology, archaeology and teaching.”

    Laura had run through her life’s summary so quickly, she was surprised at how it had rolled off her tongue.

    She laughed. Looking at Ty she exclaimed, “How’s that for a one-minute life’s summary?! Pretty miserable, huh?”

    Ty shook his head, disagreeing with her last question. “Not at all. Sounds like you have your act together, really. At least you know what you don’t want. That’s better than most people.”

    Laura smiled and said, “Smart answer.” Then they both laughed. Ty felt a bit awkward because he knew it was his turn.

    She looked at him and batted her eyelids. “Your turn.”

    Ty paused, not knowing how to start. She urged him by rolling her hands in a circular motion.

    “Oh, okay,” he said slowly. “Never married, although I had a close call but she decided I was too simple. I worked on the docks driving cranes and heavy equipment in St. Louis until the earthquake turned the Mississippi into a friggin’ lake. I’m not active military any more, although I contract with them sometimes to do training for troops preparing to head to the Middle East. Nothing special.”

    He paused, wondering if he’d explained enough to satisfy her.

    “Okay,” Laura smiled. “I can tell you don’t like talking about yourself. I’ll let you off the hook for now.” They both laughed again as Ty was wiping off a smudge of grease on the back of his left hand.

    “Thanks,” he smiled. “I didn’t know where else to go after that because there isn’t much more.”

    “Oh, I bet there’s lots more,” Laura said with a coy smile. “But I respect a man that doesn’t brag about everything they know or about what they’ve done.”

    Ty looked down as they walked out of the barn, “Let’s go to town and get your stuff. Then we can stop at the hospital.”

    “Great,” Laura said. “I hope they’re doing better. I couldn’t get in to see them early this morning when Nate took me by on my way out here. I feel horrible about wrecking the car and them getting hurt. Like, it’s all my fault.”

    “Don’t know how you could have avoided a tornado flipping your car, other than not be there in the first place,” Ty said. “Folks at the hospital are real good. I’m sure your two friends are fine.”

    She looked at him with a small frown on her face. “Knowing what that damn scroll’s been doing, how do I know I didn’t somehow cause the tornado?”

    Ty shook his head. “I think you’re jumping to conclusions. There’s no way to know for sure if it has anything to do with what’s going on.”

    They walked in silence the rest of the way until they reached the Cherokee parked on the side of the cabin. Ty opened the passenger door for Laura, surprising her.

    “I thought you wanted me to drive!” she laughed. “It’s been a long time since anyone did that for me. Thanks.”

    Ty smiled and nodded. To him, it was the polite thing to do.
  2. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 11 (cont)

    They drove in to town on the Red Ball Trail, a country road that passes Governor Bond lake just a few miles north of Greenville. Laura explained more about the scroll, trying to accurately describe the icons so he could better understand it.

    Ty said, “I’m anxious to see it when we get back, if that’s okay. Think we can open it up?”

    “Sure, we’ll do that this evening.” Laura agreed it would be a good idea. “Easier than trying to describe it. Words don’t do it justice. It’s absolutely beautiful.”

    Then Ty remembered something he’d meant to say before they left the barn. “You can sleep in the loft’s bedroom, I’ll sleep downstairs on the main level.”

    Laura could tell he was a little self-conscious about the sleeping arrangements. “That’s fine,” Laura said smiling. “I trust you. The old Indian said I could.”

    Ty grinned. “And if we’re lucky, Nate won’t blab to everyone that he brought you out to the place this afternoon. We want to keep the professor’s reputation clean.”

    Then a question entered his mind. He added, “You said the old Indian told you to find me for protection. I’ve gotta ask, what kind of danger does he think you’re in?”

    “I have no idea,” is all Laura could answer. “I don’t know if the scroll caused the tornado that we wrecked in, or if it represents some other kind of danger to me. That’s just one more reason I want to get it back in the cave where it belongs.”

    Ty was going through possibilities of variables in his mind. It’s what well-trained snipers do. Work out all the possibilities and put plans in place for each one. Plan A, plan B and plan C. And if necessary, a plan D and E.

    Laura could see he was deep in thought as they drove through the small town, past the courthouse and the one-screen theater. She didn’t interrupt him, although she was interested in knowing more about Greenville because she’d driven past it many times but never been through it. Laura thought she would ask him later. Perhaps tomorrow on their way out of town.

    Ty drove to the town’s only service station that owned a wrecker, and saw two wrecked cars sitting behind the building.

    “That’s mine,” Laura said pointing to a car that had obviously rolled over.

    “God, I can hardly tell it was a Honda!” Ty was surprised to see Laura hadn’t been seriously injured in it. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen a Civic that low.” He was trying to make light in a tense situation, but it didn’t feel like it had left his tongue correctly. He tacked on, “You’re lucky to be alive.”

    Laura knew she was fortunate. “Yep. I hope the trunk will open so I can get some of my gear. And the scuba tank’s in the back seat. It’s what broke Katie’s leg I think.”

    He stopped the Cherokee right in front of the gas station and recognized Nate’s taxi sitting at the pumps. Ty saw the cab driver inside talking with the station owner, Frank Norsigian. He gave them both a short wave getting out of the car and then pointed that he and Laura were going to go around to the back. The men both nodded and began walking to meet him and the lady at the rear of the station.

    After Ty did the introduction of Laura to the shop owner and Nate greeted her again, they all walked over to the wrecked Honda. Frank was able to get the driver’s door open and Ty grabbed the scuba tank from the rear seat while Nate tugged on the trunk. But it wouldn’t open. A pry bar from the shop with Ty and Nate both pushing up hard on it finally popped the trunk open so Laura could get to her scuba gear.

    “I’d say she’s totaled,” Nate said, shaking his head.

    “Oh yeah, definitely,” Frank agreed. “Hope you had full coverage, ma’am.”
    Laura nodded, pointing to her dive gear bags, rope and scuba tank that Ty was grabbing for her while Nate held up the trunk to make sure it didn’t close on him. In less than a minute, Laura had everything she needed. Ty carried it to the Cherokee and loaded the gear in the back.

    “Thanks guys,” Laura said. She looked at Frank and added, “I guess my insurance man will be contacting you. I’ve got everything out of the car that I’ll need, I think.”

    “Alrighty,” Frank nodded. Nate slammed the trunk shut and what broken glass that had remained in the rear window fell in to the car’s rear seat.

    Ty told the men that he and Laura had to get to the hospital to see how the two other passengers that had been in the car were, and they excused themselves.

    Ty and Laura were at the hospital on the other side of town in just a few minutes. They saw Alice standing outside the entrance, smoking a cigarette.

    “I thought you quit those things!” Ty kidded as they walked up to the front door. “Shame on ya!”

    Alice laughed, “I know, I know! I’m weak. But I’m afraid I’ll get fat if I quit!” she chuckled, looking down at her 200 pounds plus. “Gotta keep the girlish figure, ya know?” Alice snuffed her smoke and walked in with Ty and Laura, who stopped at the information desk. Alice headed back to the restaurant after saying her goodbyes.

    The volunteer lady directed them to Josh and Katie’s rooms. As Ty and Laura were walking down the hall, they passed a lounge where they saw both Josh and Katie sitting, watching the TV. Katie’s leg was in a full-length cast and Josh was holding a bag of ice on the side of his head. They were elated to see Laura.

    “You guys! How are you?” Laura exclaimed, hurrying into the lounge. “I’m so glad to see you up and about! I’m so very sorry about wrecking the car and getting you two hurt!”

    “Not a problem, professor. It wasn’t your fault, and we’re okay,” Josh said with a smile. Katie was nodding agreement. “Glad you’re okay too.”

    Katie laughed, “Josh regained consciousness late last night and he’s been a pain in my ass ever since. Mild concussion the doctors said.”

    Josh was still smiling. “At least she can’t kick my ass without falling on hers. That cast weighs a bunch! But they’ve got good drugs here. The pain-killer they’ve given us is really good ****.”

    They all laughed together. Laura introduced them to Ty and quickly gave them an update on everything that had transpired since the accident.

    “We’ve been watching the television,” Katie said. “That tsunami really slammed Hawaii and the volcano is still erupting. We’ve been talking about that metal scroll and have decided that these things are just coincidences.”

    Josh nodded, “Yep. No need for you to feel like any of this is your fault, boss. Nothing else has happened.”

    “Yeah, but what else could happen?” Laura asked. “Two of the eight graphics on the icons?” Then she remembered last night. “And my dreams last night said there’s going to be more if I don’t get that metal container back in the cave where I found it.”

    She explained the dream from the night before, including Mahkah telling her to seek out a man for protection, specifically Ty. She pointed to him standing behind her in the lounge and said “Now, isn’t that too weird that there’s a guy here in town with the exact name and description the Indian shaman told me to find?”

    Katie and Josh looked at each other. Josh asked, “So, you’re going to return the canister? You’re not taking it to the lab?”

    “No,” Laura shook her head. “I’m convinced there’s more than coincidence to this and I’m going to follow the shaman’s directions to the letter. I haven’t told Professor Katz yet, but I’ll call him when we’re leaving the hospital. I’ll have him send a ride for you two. I’m hoping he understands and isn’t too angry at me for not bringing the scroll to him.”

    “He’s gonna be pissed!” Katie insisted.

    “Maybe. But maybe not,” Laura said. “And in the overall scheme of things, I don’t think my job is more important than stopping these disasters.”

    “We’ll explain the best we can to him for you,” Katie offered. “Even though we’re not sure it’s tied to these things, Josh and I haven’t had your dreams.”

    “We’ll save your job and you do what you’ve got to do, boss,” Josh said. Then he looked at Ty and added, “And you take care of our professor, mister.”

    Ty nodded, “To the best of my ability.”

    “Okay,” Laura said. “You two get better and I’ll see you when we get back from the lake. I’ll have the car pick you up this evening.”

    “You take care and be careful,” Josh warned, then added with an evil grin, “And if we save your job, it’s A’s for us this term.”

    Katie added, “Good luck!”

    Laura smiled. “A’s for you both. And we’ll be careful.”

    She and Ty left the hospital and headed back to his cabin while Laura used his cell phone to call Dr. Katz. Ty could hear Katz’s voice carry over the sound of the old Jeep when Laura told him that the canister was going back to the lake rather than to the lab’s campus. Laura looked at Ty with a meek wince on her face, as if Katz’s words were really stinging.

    Ty said quietly, “You’re in luck. We’re hitting an area that the cell’s probably going to drop the call. Warn him.”

    She smiled, and quickly asked Katz to send a car for Josh and Katie to the hospital. Then she told him they were driving into an area the phone wouldn’t work. Ty heard the voice on the other end of the phone get even louder. Then the call disconnected.

    “Thank God for small favors,” Laura said, closing the phone. “Guess you could hear he’s a little mad.”

    “I’ve never met the guy, so I won’t pass judgment,” Ty replied. “But from where I sit, he sounds a little unreasonable.”

    Laura smiled, “He’s just angry I’m returning the canister without him seeing it first. He was anxious to do some analysis on it.”

    “Well, I know how he feels,” Ty said. “I’ve heard so much about it, I’m dying to see the thing too.”

    “As soon as we get back,” Laura promised.

    As they drove up the Red Ball Trail, the sun was getting lower in the sky. It was late afternoon and Laura realized she hadn’t eaten all day. “I’m famished,” she said. “Anything to eat at your place?”

    Ty nodded agreement, “I could eat too. I’ll fire up the grill and do some chicken. How’s that sound?”

    “Wonderful!” she smiled. “I love chicken. And something tells me you’re an expert BBQ cook.”

    Ty laughed, “Can’t cook on a stove worth a hoot! But give me an outside grill and I can make ‘bout anything.”

    “Like all men,” Laura laughed. She realized that, even with all the negative things going on in the world and in spite of owning a wrecked Honda, she’d smiled and laughed more today than anytime in recent memory. Ty had a way about him, she thought, of making a person feel at ease. She tried to think of the right words to describe him. Mellow? No. Laid back? Maybe. Sense of humor? Absolutely. Integrity? Yep. And, maybe mix in a bit of the other three.

    It had been a couple of crazy days, and there was a part of her that was looking forward to an evening in the woods enjoying grilled chicken, a glass of wine and the companionship of this man.

    As they passed an old school house that looked as if it hadn’t been used in a hundred years, Ty glanced at Laura out of the corner of his eye. She had a smile on her face, and he wondered how she could be smiling after having that phone conversation with her superior. He chanced a glance at her profile, gold from the incoming rays of the late evening sun coming through the Jeep’s side window. Her complexion was perfect. Teeth were beautiful, as was her smile that had revealed them so often today. She wasn’t dainty, but definitely feminine, and he found himself wondering how some guy hadn’t grabbed this woman for a wife. Her looks defied her intelligence.

    He was glad she hadn’t been hurt in the car accident, and in the back of his mind he was happy she’d sought him out regardless whether there was anything to the old shaman thing or not. He made a mental note to prepare her a world class meal this evening.

    “What.” Laura said in a flat, challenging tone.

    “Huh?” Ty looked at her in innocence.

    “What are you thinking about?” Laura said in an accusatory tone. “I saw you look at me. And then you got a far-away gaze on your face.”

    “Nothing,” Ty answered, knowing he’d been busted. “You got real quiet, and I was just making sure you weren’t crying or anything after getting yelled at by your professor.”

    “Ha!” Laura laughed. “Not likely. I only cry at funerals.”

    Ty believed it.

    Laura changed the subject. “How many miles this Jeep have on it?”

    He looked down at the odometer. “Two hundred eighty-eight thousand. It’s a beast. Most I’ve ever known a car to go without an engine rebuild.”

    “Wow. Almost three hundred K,” Laura said, sharing his enthusiasm for the old Cherokee. “The most miles of any vehicle I’ve ever ridden in. And it really rides nice!”

    Ty nodded, “Yep. And it’ll get you to the lake with all your gear. It’s not very pretty to look at, got some rust, but you can rely on the old boy.”

    “Boy? Your Jeep is a boy?” Laura grinned.

    Ty heard the challenge in her voice. He laughed. “Gotta be male to be this tough.” He knew a volley was on the way, so he stepped it up. “Prissy little foreign cars are girls, I guess. But not Jeeps.” He smiled ear to ear and looked her right in the eyes.

    Damn, he’s got a great smile,” she said to herself. But she had to return his comment. “Prissy? Prissy!? I’ll have you know my Honda had over a hundred thousand miles! And it’s a boy, too.”

    Ty was enjoying this immensely. “Nah, that’s a girl’s miles. The Jeep wasn’t even broken in when it hit a hundred K.”

    Laura laughed hard at their banter. This was enjoyable. And she knew Ty was having fun too. “You and this boy get me to Lake Mississippi tomorrow and we’ll continue this discussion. You shouldn’t brag on a car ‘cause it’ll surely break the next day.”

    “True,” Ty agreed. “Okay, it’s a girl and breaks all the time,” he laughed, turning it all around.

    “That’s more like it,” she smiled.

    They pulled into the driveway and stopped just in front of the log cabin.

    Ty said, “I’ll grab us a drink and get the fire going. I have to thaw the chicken, it’s frozen. It’ll only take a little bit.”

    “Alright,” Laura said. “I’ll be sitting on that big stump over there, if you don’t mind.”

    He nodded, “Help yourself. Be right out.”

    Laura strolled over through the trees until she reached the stump. She sat down, crossing her legs Indian style, and looked across the ravine to the other side. There were lots of big, tall trees over there, too. Laura felt she loved it here, as if she’d been here before. Something was familiar but she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what it was. She’d been in woods before, many times in her youth, but had never appreciated the sheer beauty of nature to this extent. The scent of the honeysuckle drifting to her nostrils, mixed with the smell of trees and their leaves, created a potpourri she wished she could bottle.

    Laura said a quiet prayer asking God to help her return the canister to its underwater cave. Then she relaxed, closed her eyes and tried to recall every detail of her dreams from the night before. She visualized the old Indian, remembering every word he had said to her. It was lucid, she could remember it all.

    Truly, there was something magical about this stump. She was sure of it.

    Ty returned with a glass of wine and a can of beer. He saw she was deep in thought so he walked quietly over the leaves so as to not disturb her, stopping about twenty feet to her left side. He leaned up against a shaggy bark hickory tree and waited until she opened her eyes.

    She saw something in her peripheral vision and it startled her. Then she saw it was Ty.

    “You scared me!” she said, almost laughing. “You sneaked up on me!”

    Ty was smiling when she’d first seen him. He said, “Didn’t want to disturb you, and I was hoping you hadn’t fallen asleep. I got the fire going.” He pointed to the cabin. “Mind showing me the scroll?”

    She was happy Ty had so much interest in it. “Right now!” She stood up and thanked him for the wine as she took it from his outstretched arm. “It’s so peaceful here I can’t believe it!”

    Ty said, “I’m glad you appreciate it. Many people can’t, ‘specially if they’re city-folk that have never been in the woods. Most people hate bugs and stuff and can’t get past the skeeters to appreciate nature.”

    The two walked around to the north side of the cabin and into the walk-out basement. The canister was still on the bar where Laura had left it.

    She sat her glass on the bar and lifted off the canister, laying it on the floor. Ty sat on a bar stool to watch, in anticipation of what this thing was all about.
  3. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 11 (cont)

    Laura touched it on the flush button and again as it opened up revealing the scroll inside. She lifted it out, put her fingers on each corner and in two seconds the scroll was laying flat on the hardwood floor.

    Laura looked up to Ty to gauge his reaction. He was amazed.

    “That’s wild!” he said. He got up from the bar stool and knelt next to Laura to get a better look at the scroll itself. He saw pictures, graphics of some kind, inside little frames. He agreed Laura had been right. It was extraordinarily articulate in its design.

    “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Ty said reverently.

    “Nor I,” Laura agreed. “Look at the detail of those icons!” She pointed to two of them. “Here’s Mount Vesuvius, I think. And here’s a tsunami or tidal wave. Now do you understand why I think this is related to what’s going on?”

    He was studying the two graphics she was pointing at and answered after a few seconds. “I see what you mean, but there are pictures of tidal waves and volcanoes all over the world in libraries and on the Internet. They don’t cause anything to happen.”

    She shook her head in disagreement, “But the timing is too much for coincidence. Those things started the day after I discovered how to open up the scroll.”

    “It’s simple, then,” Ty said, looking at Laura. “We’ll just put the thing back where you found it and see if they stop.”

    He stood up and said, “Thanks for showing it to me. It is beautiful. Excuse me for a sec. I’ve got to check the charcoal, it may be about ready to start the chicken.”

    “Okay,” Laura said. “Watch this.” She touched two corners of the scroll and it returned to its original form. She gently placed it back in the canister and closed the lid. Ty looked closely.

    “No seams!” was all he could say.

    “Nope! Ever seen metal that can do that?” Laura asked.

    Ty just shook his head. He helped Laura stand up by grabbing her gently on the forearm, then picked up the canister and returned it to the bar for her. He said, “Grill is on the deck on the main level. Meet you there. There are steps outside that go up there too, or you can come upstairs with me.”

    “OK,” Laura said. Then she smiled and asked, “Mind if I have another glass of wine? It’s really good.”

    Ty replied, “Help yourself!” as he disappeared up the steps to the main level. Laura poured another glass of wine, walked outside and up the steps, taking a seat in one of the deck chairs to await Ty and the chicken. She turned her chair to face west so she could enjoy the sunset. She noticed real charcoal smoking in the grill rather than gas, realizing her host preferred traditional cooking rather than the convenience of propane gas. It would be a welcomed change.

    In a few minutes, Ty came out carrying a plate with chicken breasts and items wrapped in aluminum foil, struggling to hold the plate and BBQ utensils while trying to keep his cell phone up to his ear with a shoulder.

    “Sure, Nate. Bring him out, I guess,” was all Laura heard at the end of the call. Ty closed his phone.

    Ty looked at Laura apologetically. “It was Nate, the taxi-man. He said there’s a guy in town that was asking about you today, trying to find you. I just told Nate to bring him out. I assumed he’s from the college.”

    Laura got a numb feeling in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t know why, but something didn’t feel right. Katz would have called first. She knew he had caller-ID to pull back Ty’s phone number. Laura couldn’t think of anyone else that would be looking for her, but what came to her mind was Mahkah’s warning the night before to be extremely careful.

    “What’s the matter?” Ty asked. He suddenly felt bad, realizing he should have asked Laura first before giving Nate the go-ahead to bring someone out to the cabin. “I’ll call Nate back and tell him to stop.”

    “No, that’s okay. Don’t call Nate,” she insisted. “But please do me a favor and humor me. That old shaman told me last night to be careful and to find you for protection.” She was looking Ty in his eyes and asked, “Do you have a gun?”

    Ty smiled and nodded, “Oh, yeah. One or two.”

    Laura asked, “Would you mind if I hid somewhere, at least until we see who this is? And you should have a gun handy, I think.”

    “You hide in the loft upstairs in the bedroom closet and I’ll strap on my .45 just in case,” Ty said, nodding. “I’ve got a shoulder holster that’ll hide it out of sight, just in case the guy is legit. Everyone thinks us country boys are gun-happy anyway,” Ty smiled, lightening up the moment.

    He carefully placed two baked potatoes in aluminum foil down in the charcoal, added the grill and placed the chicken on it, then closed its lid.

    He helped Laura up out of the chair and pointed inside. “Stairs are on the far side of the great room. Closet is on one side of the bedroom up there.”

    Laura thanked him for the hand out of the chair and walked inside. “Such a gentleman,” she thought to herself. She hurried up the stairs and found the closet.

    Ty spun the combination on the gun safe, opened the door and took out his .45 Colt auto. He peeled off his t-shirt, stuck the .pistol in a shoulder harness that was laying on top of the safe, and put it on. He closed the safe and turned the dial to relock it securely. Then he pulled his t-shirt back on, looking down to make sure the bulge wasn’t visible. It was hidden under his left bicep and upper arm quite nicely. As he glanced in a small mirror on the wall to make one last check that the Colt was concealed, he said to himself, “I sure hope this isn’t necessary!

    He remembered the chicken and hurried out to the grill to flip the meat and rotate the potatoes down in the coals. Even with this going on, he still wanted to make the meal special for Laura. The breasts were cooking well, but turning them hadn’t happened any too soon.

    He walked to the front of the deck and looked through the trees toward the road, expecting Nate to arrive at any time. Ty considered calling Nate back to ask more about his passenger, but decided against it. He walked back into the house and shouted upstairs to Laura, “Are you sure you don’t want me to turn Nate around?”

    “No,” Laura answered back through the sliding closet door, “just see who it is. But thanks for checking again!”

    “Okay! I’d like to meet them further out on the lane, but I don’t want to leave the grill. I’ll let you know when they get here.”

    He walked outside and added two ears of sweet corn wrapped in aluminum foil to the grill and closed the lid again.
  4. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 12


    Ty heard a car out on the hard road and walked to the end of the deck waiting to greet Nate and whoever was with him. Nate’s cab drove in slowly on the lane, through the trees and up to the front of the cabin. Nate gave Ty a short wave as he got out and the back door opened up.

    An old Indian got out, stood next to the car and looked at the surroundings, as if he was surveying. Nate walked up to the deck.

    “Kind of a weird old man if you ask me,” Nate said, shaking his head slightly. He hasn’t said much other than asking around town if anyone had seen Laura. What’s spooky is that he said she could probably be found with someone that fit your exact description, Ty, but he didn’t know your name.”

    Nate looked up at Ty, still standing on the deck holding his grill tongs trying to figure out what the old Indian was doing.

    “This is too weird, Nate,” Ty said. “I think I’ve seen him somewhere before but can’t remember where or when.”

    Ty raised his voice so the visitor could hear. “C’mon in, sir. You are welcome here.”

    Mahkah turned slowly and looked at Ty. Ty became aware of a weird sensation in his chest as the old man gazed at him. The Indian nodded, picked up a small suitcase from the back seat of the cab and approached the deck.

    The Indian moved remarkably well for a man his age, Ty thought. Nate didn’t say a word, choosing to hang around just to make sure things were going to be okay.

    When he’d reached Nate, Mahkah said to Ty, “Please forgive my unannounced arrival. But I assume Laura is here?”

    Ty didn’t know how to answer. “May I ask your business, sir? And I have to ask, haven’t we met before?”

    Mahkah smiled. “We have met, yes. But not in a way you would understand. We can discuss that later. And my business with Laura concerns you too. It is regarding the metal scroll.”

    Ty gently pressed his left arm against his side, feeling the comfort of the .45 resting there. He asked himself how this old Indian could know of the scroll and how he knew Laura would be here with it.

    “Hello!” Laura said excited as she walked up behind Ty. “You’re Mahkah! Oh my God! How did you find me?”

    Mahkah smiled a wide grin when he saw her. “Some things are meant to remain mysteries, my dear. I am so happy you’re here and safe.”

    Nate lifted his ball cap and scratched his head, looking at Ty for some kind of answer.

    Ty laughed, relaxing as he realized Laura knew the Indian.

    “Don’t ask me, Nate. Feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone?” Ty said with a big smile.

    “Damn right!” Nate replied, shaking his head. “Should I head back to town?” He looked at the Indian, then to Ty and Laura.

    Mahkah motioned with his hand toward Ty and replied, “Whether I stay or not depends on these two.” He looked at Laura to make a decision.

    “Oh, yes!” Laura said. Then she looked at Ty and added, “As long as it’s alright with Ty. It’s his place.”

    “Oh, why not.” Ty grinned. “I expect Rod Serling to step out from behind one of these trees anytime now.” All four people laughed as tensions were relieved. Nate walked toward his cab and got in, giving them a wave.

    “Call me if you need me!” he shouted to them through his open window as he turned around in the driveway. “And if I see Rod Serling, I’ll bring him out too!”

    Ty invited Mahkah up on the deck, motioning at the steps on the corner. “Please come up, sir.”

    The Indian walked up the steps and shook Ty’s hand, then leaned in and gave Laura a gentle hug. “It’s very nice to see you in person, Laura,” he said, smiling.

    Laura was still in mild shock. “I can’t believe you found me!” Then she added, “You look exactly like you did the last two nights!”

    Ty looked at both of them with questions written all over his expression. “Last two nights? I don’t understand.”

    Laura laughed. “Yes, in my dreams, Ty. I know you’ll think this is all crazy but Mahkah and I met two nights ago in my dreams. He came to me and talked about the scroll.”

    Ty shook his head slowly, then motioned over toward the deck chairs and smoking grill. “Consider me dream challenged, so I’m looking forward to hearing about’em. Let’s go have a seat and I’ll finish dinner. May I put on an extra chicken breast for you, sir?” he said, looking at Mahkah.

    “That would be very nice, yes. Thank you,” Mahkah said with a slight bowing gesture. “I’m starved. I left very early this morning and haven’t eaten all day.” Laura and Mahkah had a seat in the chairs while Ty went back into the cabin to prepare more food for their guest.

    “So, tell me how you got here!” Laura said to Mahkah. “And where did you come from?

    Mahkah laughed at himself. “My first airplane ride. Scared me to death.” He paused, looking around as if he’d heard something in the woods. Then he continued, “I’m from South Dakota. I live at a southern section of it near Nebraska. I hitched a ride to Rapid City before dawn today with a friend, then took what they call a regional jet to Springfield. Damn flight almost took all my savings, and what the airline didn’t get, the driver from the airport to Greenville did.” He laughed again. “I had no idea cash is almost worthless when traveling. They kept wanting a credit card. I find it strange that they’d prefer my charging something over paying for it up-front. I’ve never owned a credit card in my life.”

    Laura smiled, “Yes, that’s the way it is. Sorry it cost so much to get here, but I’m very glad you came. I have so many questions to ask! I feel like I’m going to burst if I don’t start asking them right now.”

    “There will be time to discuss it this evening. Ample time to get the answers you seek,” Mahkah said with a reassuring smile. “I am very anxious to see the scroll.”

    “Of course!” Laura exclaimed. “I just showed it to Ty. I’ll go downstairs and get it.”

    “That would be very gracious of you,” Mahkah said. “If you don’t mind.”

    Laura jumped up off her chair and went in through the cabin, telling Ty on her way that she was going to show the canister and its contents to Mahkah.
    Ty was standing at the kitchen countertop, wrapping an extra potato and a cob of corn in aluminum foil. He said, “Are you sure this guy is who he says he is? I mean, how do you know?”

    “My dreams were very vivid the last two nights and I remember him exactly. He’s even wearing the same leather vest I dreamt last night,” Laura assured him.

    “If you say so,” Ty replied, trusting her judgment. “I’ll be outside with the extra chow in a minute.”

    Laura hurried down the steps, grabbed the canister on the bar and returned to the deck with it, where Mahkah was standing up against the railing of the deck, looking west at the sunset.

    “Beautiful here, isn’t it?” Laura asked him as she sat down with the canister on her lap.

    “Extraordinary,” Mahkah said, nodding slightly. “There is a tremendous amount of energy in these woods, among the hardwood trees. There are not many trees of his type in my part of the country. I find them extremely powerful.” He turned to Laura, smiled, and looked down at the canister.

    “Here it is,” Laura said, holding it in both hands and raising it toward Mahkah as if offering for him to hold it.

    “I do not want to touch it, thank you,” Mahkah said, holding up a hand. “I’m not even quite sure if you should be handling it. As Wakanda and I told you last night, you do not yet know its origin.”

    Laura quickly laid the canister on a short wooden table near her chair. She looked up at Mahkah as if expecting an explanation.

    He looked at the canister, reflecting the pink and orange light radiating through the clouds as the sun dipped below the horizon. He looked toward the sunset, back at the canister, then to Laura.

    He said, “Wakanda thought you were ready to know everything about the scroll. I disagreed last night. But now, I will tell you one thing that may help you understand a little more about it.”

    Laura’s expression urged him to go on. She seemed to be holding her breath.

    Ty came out from the kitchen holding a plate with an ear of corn and baked potato wrapped in foil and a chicken breast. “I’ll have it done shortly,” he said to Mahkah.

    “Thank you,” the shaman said, looking at Ty. Then he said, “Laura has been curious about the scroll’s origin. I was just about to tell her. Are you interested in knowing, too?”

    “Oh, yes sir,” Ty replied. With the grill loaded up with food, he closed the lid and took a seat on another deck chair.

    Mahkah nodded and returned his attention to Laura, glancing at Ty occasionally while he explained about the scroll.

    “It is alien in its nature,” he began. “It is not from this world, according to the information given me.” He paused to see their reaction. Laura looked at Ty wide eyed, Ty leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, returning her look. Then they both looked back at Mahkah. Neither said a word.

    The Indian continued, “The scroll has been on the Earth for tens of thousands of years, through hundreds of civilizations, thousands of generations. It has seen billions of people born and die, been witness to cataclysms that wiped the planet clean, then start all over again.”
    Mahkah smiled as he studied Laura and Ty, their bodies motionless, expressions of curiosity and confusion on their faces. Twilight had set in, darkness was upon the trio as Mahkah smiled, his white teeth the most visible to Ty and Laura.

    “The Earth is a living entity,” he continued. “It has an energy field around it just as all livings things do. It is also sensitive to the energy on it, such as positive and negative energy emanated from the humans upon it…”

    Laura interrupted, “You mean, it can sense us? Sense humans?”

    Mahkah nodded, his teeth moving up and down in the darkness as he smiled at her question. “Certainly. Energy, both positive and negative, has an effect on more things than you think. The Earth is just one of them.”

    “Then,” Laura said, “does the scroll have energy also?”

    Mahkah thought a moment before answering, then replied, “I do not know for sure. Not energy that organic beings have, but if I were to venture a guess, it would be that the scroll is integral and necessary to Earth’s energy. The scroll is tied to the Earth by programming, for lack of a better term. It is part of Earth, placed here by its owners so long ago there is no way to know exactly when.”

    Laura was still curious. She glanced at Ty, then back to Mahkah and asked, “Then, the scroll is some kind of program that causes cataclysms?”

    Mahkah smiled, searching for a correct way to answer her questions. He nodded slowly and said, “Yes, I guess you could say that. To put it in your modern day terms, if Earth is a computer, the scroll is its program. And by removing the scroll from its home, the computer is short-circuiting so to speak, triggering disasters that were programmed to occur a long time ago.” Then he looked down at the scroll and added, “And, to occur in some future time.”

    Ty stood up and opened the grill to check how the meal was coming along. “Food’s almost ready. If you two want to go in, I’ll bring it and we can continue this conversation where we can actually see each other.” He chuckled as he looked over his shoulder at Laura. “I know you’re here somewhere, but if it weren’t for a little light getting out here through the cabin’s windows, I’d swear you were both ghosts. Voices out of nowhere.”

    Mahkah and Laura laughed, then both stood up and walked toward the door. Laura gingerly picked up the canister and carried it out in front of her, as if handling an explosive device. Ty placed the chicken and roasted corn on an aluminum tray, then lifted the wire grill and plucked out the baked potatoes from the coals and added them to the tray.

    When he reached the kitchen, Laura was hunting around through the cabinets to find plates and glasses for them and had already placed silverware on the oak kitchen table. She’d placed the canister on top of the refrigerator. Ty caught the tail end of Laura explaining to Mahkah how she had found the canister in the underwater cave.

    Ty said, “I think it’s fascinating that you knew how to find Laura, and even more puzzling how you knew the scroll had been moved.” He placed the tray on the countertop and began unwrapping the foil from the corn and potatoes, tugging quickly to avoid being burnt.

    “I was advised by my benefactor to move quickly on this. And that’s why I spent my life’s savings to get here,” Mahkah smiled.

    Laura asked, “Benefactor?”

    “Yes, benefactor. The person who taught me her skills of the shaman way. She still speaks to me in dreams quite often. And she, in turn, is in touch with higher life forms in that realm,” Mahkah explained.

    “You mean, she’s dead?” Ty asked with a puzzled look on his face.

    “Not really. Perhaps by your definition of dead, yes. Her physical body is no longer on this plane of existence. But her spirit body is on the next level,” Mahkah answered Ty. “And, she can reach me from there when I am in a meditative state or while I sleep.”

    “Then she’s in Heaven?” Laura continued to quiz Mahkah.

    Mahkah laughed, “Now, that is a deep question, isn’t it.” He looked at Ty and Laura and smiled at their looks of curiosity. He said, “I suggest we eat, then take a look at the scroll and I’ll see if I can answer that heaven question to your satisfaction.”

    Ty was placing food on the plates and Laura put them on the table. “This is cool,” she said. As she sat Mahkah’s plate in front of him, she said, “I think you have so many answers. I can’t wait!”
  5. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 12 (cont)

    Mahkah thanked her for the food and waited patiently until Ty and Laura had seated themselves. He said, “There are many answers to questions that are common sense. But man has chosen to ignore the obvious, instead choosing to wrap magic and mystery behind the cloak of religion.”

    As they all began to eat, Laura asked, “Cloak of religion? What do you mean?”

    Mahkah paused, thinking for a moment. Then he answered, “Through many civilizations, men have used the magic in this world, simply things they do not understand, as the excuse to bend mankind to their will. It is the age-old story of power. Think about it. There are so many things Man doesn’t fully understand, yet common men and women just like us, but ordained or self-proclaimed religious experts, say they have a handle on all the answers. They promise a pathway to God, regardless what an ******* you’ve been in this life, as long as you continue to fill their coffers each Sunday. You can be a cruel, hateful person Monday through Saturday, but show up at church on Sunday and give every penny you can, so they can build an even bigger church. And for that, you get to go to Heaven, they claim. Pure and simple, control over the masses. Used since time began by people smarter than those filling the offering plates.”

    “I never thought about it like that,” Laura said with a frown on her face. “But putting it that way sure makes sense. That’s sad.”

    Ty said, “There was a guy in a nearby town who beat the crap out of his wife and kids every time he got drunk, which was quite often. He finally got arrested when he put his twelve year-old daughter and wife in the hospital the same night. Turned out he was a social heavy hitter in the town and the biggest contributor to their local church. There was a big stink. Damn shame that stuff goes on.”

    “People allow it, Tyler,” Mahkah said, cutting the chicken breast. “They choose to close their eyes to it and hope it goes away like kids hiding under bed sheets from monsters in their imagination. Stop and think about all the priests that have been arrested for molesting kids, and all the people around the world that could be fed if the Vatican simply sold the paintings they’ve got hanging on their walls.”

    Ty nodded while he worked on the roasted corn on the cob.

    “Yeah, what’s up with that?” Laura chimed in. “No way of knowing how long that stuff has been going on.”

    “No,” Mahkah agreed. “And we’ll likely never find out because it’s been covered up for those in positions of power. We could go on and on with examples like this, but I don’t want to belabor it. Instead, let’s focus on the magic in the world, the scroll, and what we three can do to help the situation.”

    “I’m all for that,” Ty nodded his head again, finishing the corn. “What kind of magic you talkin’ about? Like, the David Copperfield kind?”

    Mahkah leaned back in his chair wiping his mouth and chuckled a bit under his napkin. “No, not that kind of magic. That’s just illusionists fooling you. I’m talking about things science doesn’t yet understand, but certainly exist. Those things we will call magic.”

    “Can you give us an example?” Laura asked. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

    Mahkah thought for a moment, then replied, “Okay. Something simple. Ouija boards.”

    Ty laughed uneasily, also finished with his meal. “Those things scare the crap outta me! Damn spooky.”

    Laura laughed at Ty’s admittance he was scared of something. She thought to herself, “So, he isn’t all macho. That’s nice.”

    Mahkah also enjoyed Ty’s levity. He smiled and said, “They’ve been around for over a hundred years, but science doesn’t have the slightest clue what makes them work. Science writes it off as someone cheating and moving it themselves, when in reality it is entities on other levels moving the planchette. That’s the little thing that slides around the board.”

    Laura knew a little about them. She said, “I’ve used them a couple times. I never gave it much thought but it is a mystery to me. One of the girls in my sorority in college used to swear they were for real. She even had a small collection of them. But we wouldn’t allow her to store them in our dorm because we were scared to death of them too.” She smiled and winked at Ty, then looked back to Mahkah for more explanation.

    Mahkah nodded, then continued as if on queue, “Though a lifetime of shamanic work, I’ve learned that there are many levels of existence, layers upon layers, separated by vibratory levels. If you can imagine an onion and all its layers, with beings and entities on each of the levels, then you can understand a little of what awaits us on the other side. That’s what I’m talking about using the Ouija as an example.”

    “You mean,” Ty said, “there are ghosts actually moving it? Told you they’re creepy!” He stood up and went to the refrigerator and asked, “Anyone want a beer or wine? Mahkah? You, Laura?”

    Mahkah declined by shaking his head. “No, thanks. I don’t use liquor but you both are welcome to.”

    Laura answered, “I think I’ll abstain too, at least while Mahkah is explaining all this and we get out the scroll. Maybe for a nightcap though, thanks Ty.”

    Ty nodded and took a Stag out of the refrigerator for himself, popped it open and motioned to the cabin’s great room. “We can continue this discussion in there if you both prefer, or we can go downstairs. Your choice.” He started gathering up the dinner dishes.

    “I vote in the great room,” Laura replied, quickly pointing her elbow at the big open room next to them. “I’m anxious to show Mahkah the scroll and I’m sure he wants to see it.”

    The shaman nodded his head quickly, smiled and said, “That would be excellent. And to answer your question, Ty, yes, in a manner of speaking. I don’t use the term ghosts because it’s a term that our language uses to lump all entities and spirits, or things we can’t explain, in to one single category. When in reality, there are many different ones. And for now, I’ve probably got you both sufficiently confused about this. But I hope the Ouija example served to illustrate my position that science shouldn’t brag it knows everything about everything, because quite frankly it doesn’t. I believe the scroll will be one more thing science wouldn’t have a clue on.” Mahkah stood up and offered to help with the dishes. Laura waved him off with a smile and a shake of her head that it wasn’t necessary.

    “I would not argue with you,” Laura said, as she and Ty stacked the dinner dishes in the sink. “I don’t think Ty would either.”

    Ty smiled and said, “Nope. Not me. I’m not that deep of a thinker. You two are obviously way more in to this stuff than me.”

    “Then it’s important you stay in your comfort zone,” Mahkah said to Ty. “But, I’m afraid that the scroll’s discovery may force you to step outside that box for the next couple of days. That’s why, among other reasons, I am here to help by explaining as much of this as I can.”

    Ty picked up the canister from the top of the fridge and all three moved in to the big room. Laura turned on a lamp while Ty placed the canister in the center of the room on an area rug. Laura hadn’t noticed it before, but it was a beautiful rug with a pattern of snow covered mountains and a crystal blue stream running out of them. With the canister in the center of the rug, the three sat down in a triangle around it.

    “Ready?” Laura asked, looking at Mahkah.

    “Quite,” he replied, nodding and leaning in toward it, inspecting the metal object.

    Laura pressed the button and the canister opened up with its now-familiar low humming sound. She took out the scroll once more and placed it next to the canister. Touching both corners, it opened just as before, perfectly flat on the rug.

    “Very beautiful,” Mahkah said, getting in closer to inspect each icon in detail. “I can now see why you were reluctant to return it to its home. It certainly would be most interesting to an archaeologist.”

    Laura sighed, “Yes. I would love to keep it for study but I also understand why that cannot be.”

    “It may be pretty to look at,” Ty volunteered, “but I put it in the same category as Ouija boards.”

    “I hear ya,” Laura glanced at Ty and smiled quickly, then returned her attention to the scroll. She said to Mahkah, “The first time I was successful opening up the scroll, I fell asleep right next to it. When I awoke, the volcano icon seemed to be hovering over the top of the board. In a minute or so, it had disappeared. Then not long after that, I heard about Mount Vesuvius blowing up.”

    Mahkah nodded and said, “I don’t doubt it. Anything might be possible with this.” He looked at it reverently as if he was trying to understand a silent message it was sending him.

    Mahkah turned and gazed out the cabin’s front windows, into the darkness of the woods outside. He was quiet for a moment, and neither Ty nor Laura wanted to disturb him. He seemed to be very deep in thought, almost oblivious to them in the room.

    He suddenly turned back to them and said, “I do not believe we should tamper with this any more, although I have to say I would like to understand more about it myself.” He looked at Ty and Laura and laughed again at himself. “You know, I don’t have all the answers. Only those given me.”
    “Okay!” Laura smiled, anxious to put the scroll back in the canister. She asked both men, “One last chance to take a closer look!”

    Mahkah stood up and shook his head. Ty held up a hand and said, “Not me! I’m not an archaeologist.” He smiled at Laura who returned a quick glance.
    “She touched two corners and the scroll wound itself up and Laura put it back where it belonged. Then she closed the canister, Mahkah taking note of it sealing without leaving any seams.

    “Now I understand. Thank you for showing me, Laura. We should leave it closed from now on.” He looked at Laura, then Ty, for agreement.
    They both nodded at the same time. Laura carried the canister back in and returned it to the top of the refrigerator, and Ty motioned to Mahkah, inviting him to take a seat in a plush recliner.

    Mahkah smiled and shook his head, “No, thank you. My body wouldn’t know how to act if I put my butt on something that cushy.” Both men chuckled, and Ty followed Mahkah as he walked toward the huge glass picture windows, vaulted at the peak of their apex. Mahkah was appreciating the fact that Ty had the windows open and screens were allowing a nice evening breeze to flow through the cabin. He was also enjoying not talking constantly.

    Ty thought it was an awkward quiet moment, although he felt very comfortable with this Indian. He was dying to ask questions about dreams and how he’d felt when he first saw the shaman, but he hadn’t had a good opportunity yet. All their focus to this point had been on the scroll, as he figured that it should be. But he planned on asking Mahkah more about it later if he had the chance.

    Laura returned to the great room, taking more note of the rustic beauty of this room. She hadn’t had time before, running through it to the closet upstairs to hide, but now she was soaking up the room’s comfort. It was essentially one huge room, a beautiful stacked-rock fireplace on the west outside wall, located in between the kitchen and the big room. A large black gun safe with the Winchester logo sat on the opposite wall of the fireplace.

    There were basic furnishings in the room, but nothing what she would consider too posh, nor too primitive. Comfortable oak furniture, a modest television in one corner and three ceiling fans all turning very slowly. And then she noticed the floor. She hadn’t seen it before while hurrying to get the scroll open for Mahkah on the area rug.

    She squatted down to inspect it. Highly polished beautiful hardwood floors, but she didn’t think it was oak. She rubbed a hand across the floor, feeling tiny bumps or holes that were in the wood itself. Laura loved hardwood floors, and was sure this was the most beautiful flooring she had ever seen.
    “Australian wormy chestnut,” Ty volunteered, smiling over at Laura. He’d noticed her admiring the floor and anticipated the question. “My step-Mom had to have that floor, and Dad loved it too.” Ty chuckled and added, “So, we got worm holes. Not everyone can say that about their floor.” He walked over to Laura and offered her a hand again. Laura laughed at his worm holes comment while she accepted his hand and stood up. They looked over at Mahkah.

    “Nothing better than solid wood,” Mahkah said quietly, still gazing outside through the glass. “I live in a log cabin that is over a hundred years old and it’s still fine, as long as I keep it patched before each winter. It’s not one of these new-fangled log cabins but suits my needs. I’ve lived in it nearly all my life. It was built by my benefactor’s father.”

    “Isn’t it strange that things run in cycles like that?” Laura said. “What’s old is new again.”

    Mahkah smiled at her. “Solid wood has never gone out of style, my dear. At least, to people who appreciate nature. It’s definitely taken a back seat to pressboard and vinyl siding. But I think a frame home out here among these trees would be as out of place as a pig in a cowboy rodeo.” He smiled.

    Ty and Laura were nodding, both enjoying listening to Mahkah talk about a subject so ordinary, when there were such more important issues they should be discussing.

    “You’re both humoring me,” the old Indian said, smiling as he turned around to face them. “No need to be polite. I know you have many questions. Just don’t expect me to know all the answers, alright?”

    Then Mahkah suddenly turned back around, looking out the glass toward the lane. Instinctively, he knew something was not quite right.

    “Do you hear that dog barking way out to the south of us, across the hard road?” Mahkah asked.

    Ty and Laura looked at each other, shaking their heads in unison. Ty quickly walked over to the front door and opened it for a better chance of listening for what the Indian had heard.

    They all heard the dog this time, barking in the darkness as if it was running a rabbit or had a raccoon above it in a tree.

    “That’s fairly common, Mahkah,” Ty explained. He pointed to a neighboring farm further down the road and said, “They have a lab that barks at his own shadow. Nothing to worry about.” He closed the door and walked back over to Laura.

    “Okay, but he sounded like he was really angry,” Mahkah said, smiling. “I’ve learned to trust the intuition of dogs. Their sixth sense can be very helpful.”
    “I agree,” Laura nodded. “I’ve heard they can see and hear things we can’t.”
    Mahkah grinned, “Believe it.” He shifted his attention back to the room and said “Perhaps Ty is right and it’s nothing. Let’s continue wherever we were. I forgot.” Mahkah laughed heartily at his forgetting the topic.

    “You know exactly where we were, I’ll bet,” Laura said with a smile. “You’re pulling our leg.”

    As Mahkah took a seat on the area rug to continue where they’d left off, the crosshairs of a Russian rifle scope slowly swung through the room, observing everything.

    End Chapter 12
  6. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 13


    “Damn dog!” Vladimir Korchenko cussed quietly to himself. The Russian mercenary was trying to scare the noisy dog away, but couldn’t get up or move without compromising his spot. He’d hidden himself in a fence row of small trees on the far side of a field opposite the country road, about 800 yards out from the log cabin he’d been watching. Seated on his butt and resting the Dragunov rifle on a small outshoot of a low tree limb, he was scanning over the top of the soy beans in the field. Confident that he was virtually invisible this well hidden, he was annoyed the dog had sniffed him out.

    “Come here, puppy,” he coaxed the dog very quietly. “I have a snack for you.” Korchenko pulled an energy grain bar from his top shirt pocket, peeled open the wrapper and shook it out in front of him. It was too much to resist for the dog, and he quit barking. Then the Labrador cautiously approached the man who was sitting on the ground. One of Korchenko’s hands held out the bait, the other was concealed behind him.

    The lab had no way of knowing the stranger was holding a long bladed hunting knife, and at the moment the dog thought he had a free meal, the blade viciously slashed the poor animal’s throat. The lab jerked back to avoid the unexpected quick motion and yelped in surprise and pain from the sting of the knife. But he’d reacted too slowly and had been caught off-guard. He’d only known friendly people who were nice. He couldn’t understand what the stranger had done to him, it was so hard to breathe. He ran about ten feet, blood pouring out of his neck.

    The lab went down on his nose when the front legs collapsed, but he fought to get back up again. Only able to stand for a few seconds, all four legs gave out and he fell on his side, now moving very little. Oxygen not reaching the brain, the best defense the people Korchenko had been watching now lay dying at the edge of the bean field.

    “You won’t warn anyone again,” Korchenko said hatefully as he placed his eye up against the scope again. He saw all three people still in the cabin, sitting in a darkened room but backlit by the lights in the kitchen behind them. His concern that the dog had alerted them to his position, or that they’d heard the dog yip in pain when he cut its throat quickly went away.

    The distance was a bit too far to make out faces or body specifics, but he was fairly certain one of the three in the cabin was a woman. He cussed his weak 3 to 9 power scope, wishing he had more magnification. He had concentrated on objects inside the home also, but simply couldn’t discern anything other than the kitchen table, refrigerator, stove, and in the living room a big black box, which he was guessing was a gun safe or the side of a large entertainment center. He had told himself that the possibility existed his target, the woman, had sought help. The shadows and lack of light elsewhere in the cabin, especially in the glassed room they were currently in, was frustrating him. But he was a patient man, and had decided to wait until the sun came up to positively identify his target and the object he was after; some kind of metal tube that he assumed the woman would be carrying.
    At that point, a simple squeeze of the trigger would make the metal thing his trophy.

    * * * * *
    “Don’t move, don’t let on we heard anything,” Ty said quickly. “And don’t turn around or look out the window.” He looked at Mahkah and said, “I’m sure you heard that.”

    “Yes,” Mahkah nodded, forcing a smile in an attempt to act like they were just having a normal conversation. Mahkah looked at Laura and added, “Don’t be afraid, dear. But I fear we have someone watching us. I’ve felt it since we were having dinner. The dog barking confirmed it, and I just heard the dog yelp in pain.”

    “Me too,” Ty said, also with an exaggerated nod of his head. “We need to clear the hell out of this room without letting whoever that is know we heard the dog. All this glass facing south is making us sitting ducks. I want you two to go to the north side of the cabin out on the deck and put some distance between you and them. I’m going downstairs to Dad’s hobby room and grab one of his high power spotting scopes.”

    “You can’t go out there!” Laura exclaimed. “If they have a gun…”

    Ty shook his head. “They won’t know I’m outside looking for’em. I’m not bad at this stealth game, don’t worry.” He looked at Mahkah as if to assure him that everything was going to be okay. “Please take her to the opposite side of the cabin and stay away from any windows.

    Mahkah nodded agreement. He said, “Let’s get up slowly as if we’re just moving to a different room. Slowly, no hint of tension or anxiety. Natural. And do not pick up the metal canister, just let it alone. They probably don’t know what they’re looking for or what it looks like.” Then he looked at Ty and smiled. “Good luck, son.”

    “You too,” Ty forced a smile in return. Mahkah and Laura went to the kitchen past the refrigerator, out the door to the deck, then around on it to the north side. Laura immediately felt better, knowing there was now an entire cabin and lots of logs between her and whoever it was out there.

    “Let’s sit on the deck floor, up against the wall,” Mahkah suggested. They sat down and both leaned up against the white northern pine of the cabin’s exterior.

    Laura could feel her heart pounding. “I sure hope Ty doesn’t get hurt,” she said, looking sideways to Mahkah.

    “It’s very dark tonight,” Mahkah said, reassuring her. “My benefactor said he has the skills to protect the scroll and you, so trust in that. I do, although I know very little of Ty’s qualifications.”

    While Laura was explaining what she knew of his military experience to Mahkah, Ty was putting on a set of camo fatigues. He kept on the .45 auto in the shoulder holster. He slipped a camo see-through net over his head that he used when coyote hunting. It would serve to break up his outline and darken his face in case whoever was watching them had night vision.

    Taking the 20 to 60 Leupold power spotting scope with him, he slipped out the basement door, and began descending down the embankment on the north side of the cabin toward the creek. He planned on using dips and gullies in the woody terrain to reach the barn, then peer out the air vent holes at the peak of the barn from a position in its loft. He’d had shots at many coyotes from this spot while they passed across the fields, and figured it was the best way for him to go undetected while conducting the scope sweep of where they’d heard the dog barking.

    Laura leaned forward and peered over the edge of the deck, watching Ty move down the slope toward the creek.

    “He sure is moving quietly,” she said, looking at Mahkah. “Maybe he’ll be okay. I sure would like to know who’s out there.”

    “As would I,” Mahkah nodded. “I’m trying to tune in and quiet my mental noise in order to hear that little voice. Please bear with me if I remain silent for a bit.” He smiled at Laura again to reassure her everything was going to be alright.

    “Okay,” she replied, not really understanding what he’d meant by little voice. She turned back to look for Ty, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found. He’d disappeared in the darkness below them. Not a noise could be heard in the woods.

    The silence grew deafening the longer she sat there, staring out into the darkness. She had no idea until now that such quiet was possible in nature. The gentle breeze had quieted down and there was no wind at all, at least she couldn’t feel any on this side of the cabin. Every once in a while she could detect the quiet sound of something moving in the timber, something small. She thought perhaps it was a squirrel or field mouse rustling the forest leaves as it moved.

    Laura glanced at Mahkah. In the small amount of light radiating out from the cabin’s kitchen, she could see his eyes closed, face peaceful and serene, as if asleep. She noticed he was sitting in the lotus position, arms outstretched resting on his knees, palms up but hands closed. She wondered what he was doing exactly to hear that little voice, and where it came from. She made a mental note to ask him about it later on.

    She had no idea how long she’d been sitting there, but her butt cheeks were beginning to ache. She’d been seated with her legs tucked up to her chest with knees under her chin, arms latched by the fingers around her calves. She began to shift her weight left and right in order to allow blood to get to the cheeks.

    “Butt asleep?” Mahkah chuckled, looking at her with a big grin on his face.
    Laura smiled in response, a little embarrassed. “Yes,” she said, “I need a cushion.”

    “I’d get you one from the cabin, but I don’t believe it’s safe to go back in there yet. Nor, do I think it would be entirely safe to stand up. We’re nicely concealed here. I recommend you sit in the same position I am and do the same things with your arms and hands.” He motioned for her to assume the same position, showing her to clutch her fingers closely to her palm, being sure to have the bottoms of the wrists aimed up.

    She adjusted her position as he’d instructed, then asked, “Is it okay if we talk very quietly? Or will it put us in danger?”

    He slowly shook his head and replied, “As much as I would like to talk with you now, I think it safer if we just sit here very quiet and listen. I perceive the threat to be extremely dangerous. My little voice said so. And I know you’re curious, so I’ll explain more fully when the time comes.”

    Laura nodded, wishing she could ask him about it now. But she knew Mahkah was right.

    Ty had flanked around to the east, come up through a small gully in the woods and sneaked in the back of the barn. He’d taken position in the loft and was scanning the darkness of the fields south of the road with the Leupold. Nothing moving, but he was disappointed he couldn’t see much looking into the dark. The scope was for daytime use and didn’t have night vision capability. He was wishing there was more moonlight, but the moon wasn’t up yet. Starlight would have to do. At least the large 80 millimeter objective lens allowed a reasonable amount of light in. Much better than his rifle scopes, the smaller tubes restricting how much light entered the lenses.

    He’d been scanning the area about ten minutes when he thought he saw something on the far side of a bean field. There were trees immediately behind the field, and the darkness made it almost impossible to make out any forms.

    A log? A tree stump? Big dirt clump? He didn’t remember seeing anything to match that description when he’d been here coyote hunting. But then again, a tree might have recently fallen.

    He turned the power knob all the way up and refocused slightly, trying to clarify the picture. No help. He decided to slip back to the cabin, give Laura and Mahkah an update to let them know everything was okay for the moment, then return with his rifle and wait for sunrise. Given the situation, he didn’t think the pistol, typically a close-range weapon, adequate for the job at hand.

    Ty moved out of the barn, back down the small gully behind it and slipped through the timber toward the cabin as quietly as possible.

    “I hear someone coming,” Laura said anxiously, her ears alerted to movement down in the ravine near the creek.
  7. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 13 (cont)

    “It’s Tyler, I’m sure,” Mahkah said, nodding. “We’ll see if he was able to find anyone.”

    They felt a slight vibration on the deck’s steps as Ty rejoined them. He moved up to where they were and sat down across from Laura.

    “Didn’t see anyone, but it’s real dark out there,” he said. “If there’s someone in the field, he’s definitely got the tactical advantage.”

    “We should stay in darkened areas, just in case,” advised Mahkah.

    “I’m going back out there in a little bit. Need my rifle in case your hunch is right,” Ty said. “I’ll catch a cat nap occasionally so that I can stay awake tomorrow during the trip. But I’ll keep a good look-out.”

    “I don’t expect you to sleep in the barn!” Laura said quietly. “You out there while we’re all comfortable back here in bed isn’t fair.”

    “It’s my job,” Ty smiled. “I’ve slept in places much worse than the barn’s loft. I’ll take a sleeping bag if it’ll make you feel any better.”

    Laura decided not to argue. Inside, she felt good he’d be out there standing guard.

    Mahkah pointed down to the basement and said, “Laura and I will stay in the basement tonight. I’ll sleep on the floor, she can have the couch. And when you’re sure there’s nobody out there, we’ll leave at first light for the lake. How’s that sound?”

    Laura and Ty both nodded. Ty stood up, dusting off his butt. Laura strained to get up, her knees not wanting to cooperate. Mahkah stood up as if he was twenty years old, no stiffness apparent. He stretched, as Ty and Laura both looked at him in amazement.

    “Sitting there all that time didn’t bother you?” Laura asked with a chuckle. “I can barely get my legs moving!”

    “Energy, dear,” Mahkah smiled. “Energy, training and a balance of body, mind and spirit. You’ll learn more about those things tonight if you’re still curious.”

    Laura nodded quickly, “Absolutely!” She looked at Ty and added, “I just wish Ty could sit in on the Q and A.”

    “Not me,” Ty said, shaking his head. “You guys are gonna talk Ouija boards and spooky **** again, so I’ll be just hunky dory in the loft.”

    All three laughed quietly.

    Ty motioned inside the cabin, “Gonna get the rifle. I’ll come back here at daybreak to fetch you both.”

    “Okay. Be careful, Ty,” Laura said. She reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling it toward her. “I mean it.”

    “I will, don’t worry,” he assured her. “I’m a big boy. And I have home-field advantage.”

    He gave her hand a gentle squeeze, smiled, and walked around the deck on the west side of the cabin, still in darkness. He opened the screen door slightly and slipped his arm inside just enough to reach the light switch.
    He turned off the lights in the kitchen, hoping that whoever was watching would think they were simply going to bed.

    The only light in the kitchen now was a John Deere clock with a neon ring around it, which put out more light than Ty wanted. He was wishing the room was entirely dark, but there was nothing he could do about the clock without getting up high, right in front of it, to unplug it. And doing that would backlight his outline and make him an easy target, so he decided to move directly for the gun safe and get out his Remington Sendero.

    Laura and Mahkah walked to the stairs at the corner of the deck, went down and into the basement which was completely dark except for a small light with a Falstaff beer logo glowing gently behind the bar.

    From the other side of the bean field, there was motion in the cabin.
    “There you are!” Korchenko thought to himself, excited he’d finally seen some movement inside. He’d been patiently waiting to see where his targets had gone, and was beginning to worry that the dog had caused him to be discovered.

    He watched through the scope as a man walked through the darkened kitchen and in to the front room of the cabin. The man stopped at the big black box Korchenko had assumed was a gun safe, piddled with something in front of it, then swung a large door open.

    “I was right,” Korchenko said under his breath. “What have you got in there?”

    He watched intently as the man disappeared behind the door, then was visible again. He’d emerged with a long rifle. But it was too far away and too dark for Korchenko to make out any details, and he assumed by the shape of it might be a scoped rifle, perhaps a deer or elk rifle.

    As the man slung the rifle on his shoulder, it was silhouetted against the slightly illuminated kitchen. But Korchenko still couldn’t see what type of rifle it was for sure, or whether it had a scope mounted.

    Korchenko’s mind was racing, wondering what level of experience the man had with the rifle. If he was a deer hunter, he might be a reasonably good shot. If he was a predator hunter, such as fox or coyote, he was probably really good. If the man had any military training at all, Korchenko knew that would compound the challenge facing him.

    Little did Korchenko know that he’d almost been killed less than a month before by that same man wielding the very same rifle he was peering at now through his scope.

    The man was doing something with the rifle, possibly loading it. Korchenko couldn’t quite tell with the dim light in that damn room. He was wishing the target would turn on more lights or move further back toward the kitchen.

    But instead of doing what he wished, the target carried the rifle toward the front of the house, opened the door and walked out onto the covered porch, disappearing in its shadows.

    “Damn!” Korchenko cussed. He couldn’t make out any human forms on the porch with a complete lack of light. He was hoping the target would walk in front of the windows of that big room, possibly backlighting himself in the process. Korchenko closed his eyes momentarily, hoping his pupils would widen a bit more to allow in more light. He didn’t move his head so that his eyes would be directly in line with the scope when he reopened them.

    After thirty seconds, which seemed an eternity, he opened them again. For a split second, as they refocused in the scope, he thought he’d seen the man leaning against one of the porch pillars. Korchenko moved his rifle slightly to the right.

    He could vaguely make out the outline of a shoulder immediately behind a small post on the porch. But that was all. He couldn’t make out the man in full, nor could he see where the rifle was. But instinctively, Korchenko knew. He’d felt it before many times, and he’d learned to trust his gut feelings.
    He knew without a doubt that the rifle was aimed in his direction, looking for him in his own darkness, sweeping across his body hopefully without being visible to the man behind that damn deer rifle. Korchenko made up his mind in seconds.

    He had to pull back from this position. The barking dog had given him up and the people in the log cabin were alerted to his presence.

    Korchenko moved more slowly than a turtle in sliding back from his spot at the edge of the beans. He knew the human eye would train on any motion, so he had to be as slow as molasses in backing out and sliding in to even more concealment the trees behind him offered. He cussed the dog, although it could not hear him, for betraying his spot.

    It took him over fifteen minutes to move the thirty feet necessary to get back in the woods and into the cover of more darkness and trees that would break up his human outline. He decided to sit in his car that was parked well off the road and wait until morning when he could simply drive by that log cabin to see what the inhabitants were doing.

    If they were still there, he would drive up to their cabin acting like a lost person looking for directions, and shoot all three with his pistol. He was relatively sure this was the correct place, after all, and hopefully the metal thing he was looking for would be here.

    It had taken him considerable effort and time to find out where the woman had gone. He’d started with the ambulance driver, who was very forthcoming with information about the car accident, the two college kids put in the hospital, and directions on how to find the hospital. And yes, he did remember the woman had some kind of a big metal tube in her car that she’d taken with her. The driver had even told him that a big woman that ran the restaurant at the hospital might have an idea where the woman with the metal tube had gone.

    He’d found the lady standing in front of the hospital smoking a cigarette, and had been very charming in asking about the well-being and whereabouts of his niece that had been involved in the car accident. He was also concerned about schematics and diagrams that were in a long metal tube he’d given her for safe-keeping.

    The lady at the hospital had also been very helpful in describing where the pretty lady carrying his schematics had gone, and had even gone so far as to draw a map on the back of an empty cigarette pack which should help him find his niece at a log cabin north of town.

    Korchenko had parked his black Taurus sedan well off the road on a field access lane that was overgrown with brush and small trees. He had looked at it from a distance as he walked through the fencerows approaching the cabin, making sure the car was as well-hidden as possible. He was carrying his Dragunov rifle while moving across the fields, hoping that if anyone spotted him they’d just think he was just a local varmint hunter.

    Just before dark, he had finally found the cabin the big lady described, and had taken a position on the far side of a small country road and bean field. He had wished he’d found it earlier so that he could have watched during daylight. But he was also glad the approaching darkness would help conceal his spot.

    And then that damn dog had appeared out of nowhere.

    But it didn’t matter now. He was sure the woman at the hospital had helped lead him to the scroll, and he could just wait them out until daylight. He reached his car, laid the rifle on the back seat, got in and closed the door quietly. He decided to get a little sleep so that he could be sharp once the sun was up.

    Ty had given up trying to see anything from the porch, although he’d hoped to be able to see something from that pitch darkness the overhanging porch provided. He’d gone back through the gully and timber to the barn, sitting in the loft once more with the Sendero resting up against a hay bale.

    Still nothing in his spotting scope, although he had noticed immediately that the stump or log he’d seen earlier wasn’t there any more. He was wishing he’d have stayed in the loft to observe, but the flip-side was that now the Sendero would give him a fighting chance if someone was there to hurt Laura. His .45 would have been useless at this range.

    Ty settled back against another hay bale, sitting on his sleeping bag. He would cat nap for the next few hours, scanning the surroundings occasionally, and wait for sunrise.

    End Chapter 13
  8. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 14


    Josh and Katie had been told they were to be discharged the next morning and had been contacted by the university’s administration saying they would send a car to pick them up. They were elated to be finally going home, and couldn’t wait to tell their stories to friends back on campus.

    They had both finished dinner and were watching a rerun of American Idol in the lounge when the station broke in with a news announcement.

    “We interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you this news bulletin,” the anchor said, noticeably shaken. “Reports are coming in of an epidemic virus in Dallas. What type of a virus it is has not been determined, but the C.D.C. in Atlanta is working with medical authorities in Texas to determine exactly what strain it is, and where it originated.”

    Katie and Josh looked at each other, both wondering at the same time if the scroll had anything to do with what they were seeing on TV.

    The news anchor continued, “The official count of victims is climbing quickly, currently estimated to be over eight hundred. Hospitals in Dallas are being flooded with those who have contracted the virus. And this virus seems to be extremely lethal. Victims are dying within a few days of being stricken with it, but the percentage of survivors compared to the mortality rate is not yet known.”

    “Holy crap!” exclaimed Josh. “That scroll must being doing **** again! I wonder if the professor has seen the news?”

    Katie was shaking her head, staring at the television. “I don’t know how the scroll could have anything to do with people getting sick, though. What does this have to do with a tidal wave or volcano?”

    “Dunno,” Josh answered, glancing at her and then back to the TV. “You think we should call her?”

    “Without a doubt,” Katie said, digging in her purse for a cell phone.

    But the call would never go through because Laura’s phone had no signal north of Greenville, and they didn’t know that blonde guy’s name or number. After trying for over 30 minutes on and off, Katie gave up.

    * * * * *
    Mahkah and Laura had taken seats in the comfortable surroundings of the walk-out basement. She’d been burning with questions for days, and was very excited that many of them may now be answered.

    “I have so many questions, I don’t have any idea where to start,” she said to the Shaman. Mahkah just smiled back, giving her an opportunity to get her thoughts in order.

    “Okay,” she started. “Where did this scroll really come from?”

    Mahkah laughed hard, taken by surprise at her first question. So direct, so to-the-point.

    “My dear,” he began, “I’m not certain myself, but if you want me to simply tell you what has been told me, I can do that.”

    “Please,” she urged him.

    “My benefactor explained it is owned by a higher order of intelligence. I guess, for lack of a better term, you could say it is alien in nature.”
    “Like, from a different planet?” Laura asked, frowning.

    “Perhaps. I do not know. But it may have also been built here by them and simply left behind,” Mahkah said, speaking slowly while he did his best to answer her question.

    “Let’s try a different angle,” he suggested. “With degrees in geology and archaeology, you’re aware that there are many layers upon layers of civilizations, virtually built on top of each other in the Middle East, correct?”
    Laura nodded, “Yes, digs have unearthed at least eight, maybe up to ten civilizations near Baghdad.”

    Mahkah was happy she understood. “Then you’re also aware that each civilization is separated by layers of earth, one layer itself with over ten feet of what used to be mud, which is now a rock layer.”

    “Yes!” Laura exclaimed. “And they’ve discovered weapons and tools in civilizations below more recent ones that had more advanced weapons and tools. There are even metal weapons in some of the oldest, deepest digs.”
    Mahkah continued for her, “And some civilizations were not as advanced as those before them, returning to pottery and less advanced tools and weapons.”

    “Yes!” Laura was excited she finally understood something he was talking about.

    Mahkah posed his question deliberately, “And what do you think caused all those layers of rock and dirt, that ten feet of mud? What do you think caused the layers of what was dirt and dust every ten thousand years or so?”

    Laura knew exactly where he was going now. “A cataclysm of some kind. Many scientists agree that perhaps a wide ranging comet swings by now and then, hitting Earth with meteors causing the equivalent of nuclear winter with dust around the globe.” Laura was so happy she knew what he was talking about and could offer an explanation, almost being able to lead where he was going.

    Mahkah felt her excitement. He smiled, “And what if it’s not a comet?”

    Laura frowned again, her train of thought interrupted. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said.

    “I mean, my dear,” he smiled, “that perhaps science doesn’t fully understand the cause of these disasters. After all, it wasn’t long ago science thought the world was flat.”

    Laura paused, not knowing what to say. She asked, “If not a comet, what else could cause silting every few thousand years?” Now she was not so sure of where Mahkah was going.

    ‘Let’s say,” Mahkah said slowly, “that Earth is just an experiment for a higher order of alien intelligence, and we have absolutely no clue they exist or that we live in their terrarium.” He tilted his head to the side, opened his eyes wide and grinned, knowing he’d just fired a shot across Laura’s bow that was a new concept to her.

    “Terrarium?” was all she could say.

    “Yes, dear. A big experiment being watched by the scientists of that higher order, playing with us as if we were lizards in a terrarium, trying new species of creatures. Deliberately wiping out one experiment after another when it begins to fail, or head in a direction they didn’t desire or expect. Just as you would if bugs overran a terrarium in your home and began damaging the more desirable pets you wanted to keep in it. Wouldn’t you do something to eradicate the problem to protect what you wanted to keep in your terrarium?”

    Laura’s head was spinning, having been caught off-guard with Mahkah’s suggestion. “And you’re serious?” she asked, still with a big frown on her face.

    “Oh, yes,” he chuckled. “as serious as I can be.” He paused, thinking. He decided to shift his tack again.

    “Let’s look at it from a different angle,” he said. “Let’s look at our current civilization as if you were wearing the white lab coat belonging to that higher order of intelligence.” He smiled wide, knowing what he was about to say was really going to put her in a tizzy.

    “What is the Bible, essentially?” he asked, still smiling.

    Laura looked deep into his eyes, trying to guess where he was taking her. They seemed like dark pools of water, almost black, as if they were a bottomless pool.

    “The Bible? What does that have to do with what we’re talking about?” she asked, getting frustrated, her sense of understanding civilizations being shaken at its very core. She was aware of her emotions getting defensive, but still fighting mentally trying to stay calm. She had studied all her life on these topics, and what he was suggesting, or at least where she thought he was going, was silly.

    “The Bible has everything to do with what we’re discussing, my dear,” he said with a broad smile, well aware of her emotional state. “Disasters, floods, cataclysms, death and mayhem. And miracles. Lots of miracles. Wonderful things happening way beyond Man’s understanding is called a miracle, true?” He peered into Laura’s eyes, reading her reaction. Then he added, “Or, magic.”

    “Now, wait a minute,” Laura said, defensively. “I was raised Catholic and know a little about the Bible.” She realized she was getting stressed. Shifting her sitting position a bit, she said, “Miracles can also be called divine intervention. God entering our world and manifesting good things upon Man is a miracle. And they happen.” She felt she had fired back a reasonably good argument, at least from the perspective of Christianity.

    Mahkah could feel she was getting angry, defensive. But he pushed on and said, “Don’t be mad at me, dear. You asked questions and I promised I would answer. Being pissed at me won’t change anything, other than to muddy your clarity of mind with nonsense.” He expected a response to his comment, and he got one immediately.

    “Nonsense!? The Bible is not nonsense!” Laura insisted emphatically. “It is filled with stories of saints and martyrs, good people and bad, and Jesus Christ putting Man back on track with God.”

    Mahkah answered, “Stories, written as if a father knew he was dying and wanted to leave a letter to his infant child with instructions on how to live, true?”

    Laura thought for a moment before answering. “Maybe,” she replied. “Are the ten commandments what you’re talking about?”

    Mahkah felt her settling down a bit. He answered, “Yes, but much more. An infant child would need a set of instructions on how to live, such as the commandments. But the child would also need stories wrapped in magic to keep them interested as they grew up, correct?”

    “Well, maybe,” Laura replied, relaxing a bit more. She didn’t feel as threatened now, and thought she understood what Mahkah was talking about. “Are you saying Man is the child and God wrote the Bible with stories of miracles to keep us interested? Just so we would read it?”

    Mahkah laughed, knowing his answer would stir her up again. “God did not write the Bible, my dear. Men did.”

    He paused for a few seconds to phrase his next sentence carefully to avoid angering her any more.

    Then he continued, “By today’s standards, the Bible’s chapters were written by primitive men who understood very little about energy, the universe, or the afterlife. At least, by today’s scientific standards. So, they tried to make sense the best they could, writing about things they couldn’t possibly understand. And in trying to make sense of things so vast and complicated, they belittled the wonders of it all in the process. And to compound the problem, those stories were compiled by power-hungry men in an effort to control the masses, selectively choosing what chapters, authors and characters appear in It. Much information didn’t make the final compilation because the Council of Nicea, funded by Constantine, chose to leave it out. Worse yet, many things about the true magic in this universe didn’t make the final cut because it didn’t fit in with their narrow view of the world.” He paused again to get her reaction.
  9. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 14 (cont)

    “Are you suggesting that someone else wrote the Bible?” Laura asked, growing emotionally numb from what Mahkah was saying. The more he talked, the more she grew confused. Somehow, she felt threatened at a very deep, emotional level.

    Laura looked him in the eyes and said, “You’re a heretic.”

    Mahkah laughed, a big smile appearing on his face with her statement.
    He answered it, saying, “Don’t make accusations using terms the Catholic Church used during the witch trials, during its most pompous and self-serving time when it treated all its subjects like idiots and conducted all of its services in a dead language nobody could understand.”

    He got a more serious look on his face and added in a sarcastic tone, “Oh, I’m sorry. They still do.” He laughed again, making light of a topic that he knew was disturbing Laura.”

    Laura had to defend her religion. She said, “The inquisition was a dark time for the Church. It was controlled by men who thought they had all the answers. It was God versus the Devil in those days. But the priests did the best they could and only had Man’s best interest at heart.”

    Mahkah chuckled, “Don’t sound like that child we were just talking about. Mankind, especially the Church, has wanted to neatly wrap everything into a few words so they can claim to understand the very things they can’t grasp. Absolutes, you know. It’s heresy if the Church can’t explain it. And if it’s beyond their understanding, it simply doesn’t exist, or they say that it’s madness and heresy to be open minded enough to acknowledge a possibility that something exists beyond our understanding.”

    He paused, giving Laura more of an opportunity to respond. She didn’t, so he went on.

    “Everything is absolute and easily explained. Man has been guilty of this psychological flaw most of the time he’s been on the Earth. But this last couple hundred years science has gotten ridiculous with its absolutes.” Mahkah paused again, taking a breath and giving Laura a chance to think. He really wanted this to sink in.

    He tilted his head to the left and smiled, blinked a couple times and motioned with his hand to volley back.

    Laura still didn’t respond, choosing to think about all this and let him continue while she more carefully arranged her thoughts. She wanted to argue, but intelligently.

    Then to drive his point home, he added, “Man is so arrogant that in 1902, the United States Congress suggested the patent office be closed because everything that could be invented already had been. And look at all the things since that we have come up with! Airplanes, computer, the internet, the cell phone, medicines and technology that someone in 1902 couldn’t possibly have conceived. That is the level, my dear, of Man’s arrogance I’m talking about in reference to understanding the Bible and understanding God.”

    “But,” Laura finally spoke, challenging him. “You still haven’t answered my questions. Surely there’s something in the Bible that’s divine!”

    The shaman smiled, anticipating her question. “Yes dear, the Bible’s source is truly divine, chock full of wonderful things. It is from the Being that sourced everything in the universe. There is a Supreme Being, my dear, whether you call It God, Allah, Jehovah, or Bhagavan. I’m simply suggesting that there may be something between God and Man, something that acts as an agent of intervention. A liaison, if you will.”

    He paused a moment, then continued, “That very something makes sense from facts that are so awesome Man couldn’t possibly understand them because it would have to be neatly wrapped in a single, absolute package to fit our tiny brains and sense of importance. When in reality, it doesn’t work that way. One wonderful thing in the universe leads to another, and another, and another. On and on to infinity. Awe and wonder at a grand scale.”

    Laura nodded she’d understood and agreed with that.

    Mahkah continued, “But Man likes to think it’s all very understandable, not beyond us, and within our mental capability to reason it all out. When in truth, all the wonders we so easily pack into that box have been made available to us by the agents of intervention. And that, my dear, is exactly who I’m talking about.”

    Mahkah paused again, enjoying the discussion. He smiled and took a deep breath of air, acting as if he was trying to catch his breath.

    “So,” injected Laura, “maybe you’re not a heretic.” She smiled.

    Mahkah chuckled, then continued, “All I’m asking you to do, Laura, is acknowledge the possibility that maybe the Church doesn’t have all the answers. Perhaps there are agents of intervention, maybe many of them, between God and Man. And those agents may have more control of Man and the Earth than our current day science understands or can even conceive. Or that the Church wants to think about or acknowledge.”

    Laura’s mind was moving quickly, beginning to grasp the concept of Mahkah’s explanation. She asked, “So, these agents helped God write the Bible so our teeny brains could understand the wonder and awe in everything?”
    Mahkah nodded slowly, smiling, happy she was no longer acting angry or as defensive as she had been earlier. “Yes, dear. You’ve got it now.”

    She cracked a small smile, then asked, “Then how does this all relate to the scroll?”

    Mahkah was glad she’d returned to the essence of the discussion. He answered, “The Earth needs to be renewed periodically. How long do you think our current level of civilization, with its rapidly growing billions of people, can survive? The oceans are being fished out, we are depleting every natural resource Mother Earth has provided us that took millions of years to develop. How can all these billions of mouths continue to be fed without a significant event turning this madness around?”

    Laura understood. She said slowly, “And the scroll is the means by which the Earth gets renewed periodically.” She said it not as a question, but more of a statement.

    Mahkah nodded and smiled without saying a word.

    Laura looked down at the floor and said quietly, “And I have unearthed this damned thing, bringing biblical disasters on us all.”

    “It’s not your fault, Laura,” he said quickly. “Do not blame yourself for something you had no control over. The scroll had been in rock for who knows how long. You did not cause the earthquake that unearthed it, and you had no way of knowing its power.”

    “That doesn’t make me feel any better,” Laura said, looking back up at the shaman. “If I hadn’t have pulled it from the rock, things might be fine.”

    “I disagree,” Mahkah retorted. “At least we have an opportunity to put it back where it belongs, where nobody can ever find it again, hopefully. Think what could happen if the wrong person had found it? What if it fell in the wrong hands?”

    Laura suddenly remembered Ty, sitting outside on guard. “What if whoever is after it manages to take it from us?”

    Mahkah got a serious look on his face. He looked her in the eyes and said, “Then, my dear, we are all in for trouble. It is our job to make sure nothing happens to the scroll and to make sure it doesn’t get away from us. That is the very reason I am here.”

    Then he lightened up, smiling, and added, “To say nothing of my having purpose in turning your view of the universe and reality upside down.”
    Laura laughed, “You’ve certainly done that.”

    They both had a much-needed chuckle. Mahkah glanced up toward the stairs and said, “I’m going to sneak up and get the scroll off the refrigerator and bring it down. We should sleep here, away from the windows.”

    “Okay,” Laura agreed. “I hope Ty is okay out there.”

    “I’m sure he is,” Mahkah reassured her. “Judging by what you’ve said about his experience, he’s in his element. And if we trust the Spirit to get us through this, all will be well.”

    “Do you think I’m going to dream tonight?” Laura asked. “The last two nights have been really hairy. Should I expect you to visit me again?”

    “Perhaps,” Mahkah answered with a grin. “But it will be up to you if you remember the dreams or not. I suggest the last thought you have tonight before you go to sleep is a request of your subconscious to recall all your dreams upon awakening. With enough practice at that, your subconscious and your spirit work together to let you remember your experiences in the other realms.”

    “Okay, I’ll do that,” Laura said. There was a part of her that wished she could remember the dreams. Another part, her conscious mind, hoped it would win out and make her forget everything within seconds of opening her eyes.

    “I’ll sleep in this chair tonight,” Mahkah said, tapping its arm. “You on that couch,” he said, pointing at small couch in the back of the room. He rose, then went up the steps to get the scroll as Laura laid down on the couch, anxious to get to sleep.

    Mahkah found it completely dark in the kitchen except for the small neon clock’s illumination. He was glad the room had been darkened. He grabbed the scroll’s container still on the top of the refrigerator, and returned downstairs. Laura was already on the couch and her eyes were already closed.

    “Pleasant dreams, my dear,” Mahkah said quietly as he sat down on the chair.

    “I hope so,” Laura said sleepily.

    The shaman closed his eyes, took a few deep breaths and began doing his well-practiced mental maneuver to get into a meditative state. He visualized the cave, imagined himself sitting there among his mushroom spirit guides while his physical body and conscious mind dozed off to sleep.
  10. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 15


    Two men, dressed in jeans and t-shirts wearing baseball caps with a NY logo on them, were carrying a small suitcase quietly moving through a food distributor’s warehouse on the south side of New York City. It was past midnight and they’d found the warehouse without guards. The alarm system had been easily defeated because of the training they’d received a year before.

    Habib and Mohammad were continuing their mission that had begun a month before, just a week following the Midwest’s great quake. They had been among an elite squad of specially trained Iranian terrorists posing as U.N. relief troops, shipped in at the President’s request to quell violence in the St. Louis area. Ordered by the Iranian Premier to take canisters of a genetically engineered virus dubbed Ebola-7 to major cities throughout the United States, there had originally been ten teams of four men in each squad. But some had not received the orders recalling them by the new Iranian president and had no way of knowing the U.S. government had quietly stepped up water supply and infrastructure security throughout the nation.

    Habib and Mohammad had watched the news as most of one of their teams was discovered dead in Chicago, killed by the virus they were carrying. An explosion at the O’Hare airport terminal by a terrorist had killed hundreds the following day, and hundreds more had died within a week from the virus because they had been exposed to it during the explosion.

    The U.S. government had been repeatedly denying the terrorist’s bomb had contained any dangerous chemicals or toxins, but the major news services worldwide had been insisting the U.S. was covering up what it knew. Many of those in other nations who had died from a virus had been in Chicago, at the O’Hare terminal, the same day of the terrorist bombing.

    Two of their own team had also died the ugly death, apparently from drinking water that had been tainted with their virus at the U.N. camp before their departure. And now, Habib and Muhammad were cut off from the rest of their teams since there was no communication to be between them after starting the Ebola strike mission.

    The two remaining terrorists had watched the news intently the last couple weeks for any sign that their counterparts had been successful in delivering the virus to the assigned cities. They had no way of knowing that most of the teams had been interdicted by U.S. anti-terrorist forces, or had died of the tainted water. Keeping a low profile while hiding in a New York Muslim safe house, they’d been elated to see Americans dying of some unexplained virus in Dallas. At least one of their teams had been successful.

    And now, they’d decided, it was time to launch their attack on New York.
    Locating produce cases on wood pallets, the Iranians discussed what types of fruits and vegetables would be most likely to successfully carry the virus to their intended victims. They’d had this discussion many times before throughout the previous week. Some vegetables would be washed more than others. They both agreed that lettuce would be the best delivery vehicle, since the layers of leaves would give the liquid Ebola its greatest chance of surviving a thorough scrubbing. The chlorine in city water was Ebola’s enemy.

    They didn’t need biochemical protective suits and were not concerned with catching the virus themselves. This had been a suicide mission from the onset. Each had a cyanide capsule that they planned on taking after the objective had been achieved this night.

    Habib began popping open the crates of lettuce while Mohammad ceremoniously opened the case containing vials of Ebola-7. There were two stainless steel vials, each containing one quart of the deadly fluid.

    Two hours later, with thousands of lettuce heads lightly splashed down with the liquid, the vials emptied and all signs they had been on the premises erased, they drove off toward New Jersey, where they planned on tossing the suitcase with empty canisters into a dumpster. They would then bite the cyanide capsules after a prayer ceremony. Speaking Farsi and praising Allah they had been allowed to fulfill their mission, they prayed to Him that millions of Americans would perish in the deadly aftermath that would surely follow their work.

    * * * * *
    I must be dreaming,” Laura said to herself. She was standing on the shoreline of Lake Mississippi again, overlooking the muddy water out in front of her. It was light, but there was no sun. She could see things clearly, but it was a hazy, yellow light illuminating her dream.

    “Yes,” Mahkah said softly standing behind her, “you are dreaming. Hello.”

    His voice startled Laura, although she’d half been expecting to run in to him.
    She spun around quickly, looked at him, smiled and said, “You need to stop doing that! You’re going to give me gray hair.” She saw Mahkah was wearing the same clothes he had during their two previous meetings when in dreams.

    She asked, “Do you always wear the same clothes when dreaming?”

    Mahkah laughed, his voice smooth and silky, as if it were flowing with water. “If you see me with the same clothes, then so be it, my dear. It’s merely the way your subconscious and dreaming body perceive me. For all you really know, I might be completely naked!”

    The realization caused Laura a moment of concern, then she laughed at his wide, mischievous grin. She thought him quite harmless.

    “Oh, trusting anyone in your dream state can be a dangerous proposition, dear,” Mahkah warned.

    “There you go, reading my mind again! It’s quite annoying, you know,” Laura said flatly. “So, then I shouldn’t trust you?”

    Mahkah laughed, “I’m fine.” Then he frowned as he cautioned her, “But others you meet in these realms might initially appear to be harmless, when they’re really something entirely different. Very scary things exist here and I’m just giving you the heads-up.”

    “And I thank you for that,” Laura replied. She’d had nightmares, most often in her early teenage years, that had frightened her. She had no desire to experience the terrorizing fear again.
  11. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 15 (cont)

    Mahkah continued his training. He smiled slightly and said, “You may hear voices in this realm without anyone around. Detached voices, if you will. Be cautious in those cases, and listen intently to their message. Some may have positive sources, others, negative.”

    “You mean,” she asked, “as schizophrenics hear voices when they’re awake?”

    He nodded, “Yes, in a sense. But schizophrenics’ minds, the poor souls, have accidentally punched through the natural barriers that exist between these levels and aren’t able to discern a distinction between the various layers between good and bad. Between positive and negative. Those that commit murder and other gruesome acts will insist they heard a voice, sometimes God or the Devil, and carry out the orders.”

    Laura understood, her clarity of mind in this state was excellent. She felt she could almost read Mahkah’s thoughts. She said, “And our psychologists don’t acknowledge the existence of those entities, so the person is judged to be mentally unstable.”

    Mahkah smiled, feeling her confidence. “Absolutely, you’ve got it. Until psychologists understand the barriers between the levels of consciousness and sub-consciousness, reality and other realms on many different levels, it will be impossible for them to fairly classify a persons level of sanity.” He chuckled and added, “Or, not.”

    Laura nodded. Or, at least she felt as if she’d nodded. She wasn’t quite sure in this dreaming state what her body was doing.

    “Now,” Mahkah said smiling, “you must realize that everything you learn in this layer of perception, the dream state, is fleeting. You may or may not be able to remember it tomorrow. Or, you’ll forget it entirely until something triggers your memory and you’ll suddenly remember it.”

    “That sucks,” Laura frowned. “I wish I could maintain this mental clarity when I’m awake! That would be perfect!”

    Mahkah nodded and agreed, “Yes. It’s a difficult task to master, but one well worth the effort.” He paused for a second while he thought, then added, “I’m going to give you an exercise to help you control your mind when moving between waking and dreaming states.”

    “Please,” Laura said anxiously.

    “Each night before you go to sleep, as I’ve already told you, simply tell yourself that you want to remember your dreams, that you want to be lucid and aware each time you’re dreaming. Then, when the time comes and you become aware that you’re in a dream, do this.” He paused, then looked down at his feet very deliberately, then brought his hands up before his face.
    “Look at your feet, then look at your hands,” he continued. “If you’re able to find them, it will solidify your dreaming body a bit more each time you’re successful.”

    Laura made an effort to imitate what he’d just done, but could not. She looked down and saw nothing, just a dull gray floor that she assumed she was standing on. She tried to raise her arms to bring her hands up before her, but they felt glued. They wouldn’t move. She became frustrated immediately.

    Mahkah laughed, “Don’t get angry if you’re not able to do it right away. Give your spirit and subconscious a little time to get accustomed to this. It will happen when you’ve gathered enough energy. It might take a week, it might take a year or more. But if you continue to work at it, I promise you that it will be worth the effort.”

    “Okay,” Laura said gloomily. “We’ll see.”

    You’ll see,” Mahkah chuckled, correcting her. “Believe.”

    Laura felt something move behind her and she turned around, almost instinctively. There were two men off in the distance, standing motionless looking at her. She wasn’t on the shoreline any longer, and realized there was nothing but a thin gray fog around she and Mahkah. No objects, nothing to fix her eyes on except those two people off in the distance.

    “Who are they?” she felt a tinge of fear, as if her mind knew something that it wasn’t sharing with the rest of her awareness.

    “Simply entities, my dear. They will keep a distance because I am here with you. They are guardians, but not yours. They exist on this level all the time because they have no organic bodies. They may have never had a body, and are simply curious how you’ve reached this layer of existence when still attached to a physical body.”

    “Can they hurt me?” Laura asked. She felt her voice tremble slightly.

    “Yes and no,” Mahkah replied. “They cannot hurt your physical body, but in your dreaming body they are very real and you do not want to come in contact with them.”

    Laura had no desire to take her eyes off the two entities, as if she could keep them at a distance simply be letting them know she saw both of them. She noticed a strange reddish glow, very slight but she could definitely see it, around both of them.

    “Remember this,” Mahkah said, knowing what she was seeing. “On this level, red is bad, blue is good. Simple. But oh, so complicated because now I know you’re going to ask me to explain it.” As he laughed, Laura could feel his gentle, smooth voice flow through her very being.

    “I’d be crazy not to ask,” Laura said, trying to smile and contain the fear that was building within her while looking at the two beings.

    “Turn back and look at me, Laura,” Mahkah ordered. His voice was firm, the most insistent tone she’d heard him use. “Take your attention off them. Now.”

    Laura was suddenly looking directly at Mahkah, although she hadn’t consciously planted her foot and turned around as one would traditionally do in the physical world.

    Mahkah smiled at her surprise. “You need only to think to move on this realm. But sometimes if you try too hard, you’ll lock up tight, as you did when trying to find your hands a moment ago.”

    Laura nodded that she understood.

    “Okay,” Mahkah started his explanation, “red is generally associated with entities that are negative in nature, but not mean or ornery as you would define it in the conscious realm. It’s just a different kind of energy, opposite from your own, that could be harmful if you allowed them to come in too close, or if you think your way over to them. Keep a distance if you sense or see anything red on this level.”

    “All right,” Laura nodded. “And blue?”

    “The other polarity. Energy more similar to your own, positive in its nature,” Mahkah replied, “and you’ll find that your dreaming body will be more drawn to entities emitting a blue aura.”

    Laura watched Mahkah’s eyes as he looked past her, frowning toward the two men. Suddenly, she was looking at them again without consciously turning around.

    As if on queue, the two men moved back in unison. But rather than moving out of eyesight, they both seemed to dissolve before her eyes.
    Mahkah said, “They will leave us alone. I told them to stay away from you, also.”

    “Thank you,” Laura said quickly. She was greatly relieved they’d gone away. She could still feel something inside her was tight, scared, but slowly dissipating.

    “Red is the color of the devil, of course,” Mahkah said chuckling. “Much of Man’s writings of the devil, demons and goblins had its source that originated in the dream state.”

    “I can believe that,” Laura said. “I felt something innately evil from them, way down inside my being. I was scared.”

    “And rightly so,” Mahkah said, now more serious. “Do your best to remember this encounter when you wake up. It will serve you in your dream control endeavors.”

    “And blue beings are angels?” Laura asked. She was startled at the innocence of her question, almost as if she was a little kid.

    Mahkah laughed, “Yes, my child.” He was aware of her self perception. “Not angels with wings and harps as you’ve seen in theological paintings, but certainly more positive and helpful than those two you just saw.”

    “Can I attract blue beings to me when I’m dreaming?” Laura continued her questioning. “I mean, do I want to? Can they help me?”

    “Yes and no,” the shaman answered. “I’ve mentioned natural barriers that exist here out of necessity. You are pushing the envelope within those barriers at this very moment by maintaining a level of control while in your dreaming body. It is as difficult for them to come to you, as it is for you to get to them. But it is certainly possible.”

    Laura smiled and said, “I feel like I’m pushing an envelope, alright.”

    Mahkah laughed, his wide smile comforting her. He said, “You are as a child suddenly finding herself graduated to college from kindergarten. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained here, almost limitless. The only things that keep mankind from better understanding these levels are the fear of the unknown, feelings of their own self-importance, and a lack of energy focus because they are too busy with the trivialities of everyday life. Paying bills, buying that bigger house and fancier car all consume their finite energy supplies, preventing them from the wonderful experiences awaiting them here.”

    Laura was still very lucid, understanding what he’d said as if it were an absolute. She said, “I think I’m going to dedicate my life to learning more about this.”

    Mahkah laughed again, his smile revealing perfect white teeth as he said, “It is a worthy quest, my dear. After all, humans spend about a third of their life here. Yet, they rarely remember it or exploit its potential.”

    “I will,” Laura nodded. “I will. I have to understand more about this.”

    “Good for you,” Mahkah said, still smiling. “That’s the scientist in you coming out. A natural curiosity for things just beyond your grasp of understanding.”

    Laura nodded again, with a sense of purpose at the front of her mind. She said, “And I will. I’ll find angels here as often as I can.” She smiled at her statement, so positive, so uplifted. She felt full of youthful energy.

    Mahkah smiled with her and said, “And now, instruct your conscious mind to remember everything we’ve experienced tonight. If you have sufficient energy in reserve when you wake, you’ll retain this.”

    “Okay,” Laura replied, again as if she was taking lessons in school. Her last image was Mahkah laughing once more at her little girl self.
  12. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 16


    Ty awoke with a start. He’d apparently dozed off for a short nap and been dreaming, but couldn’t remember what it had been about. He looked out across the field and saw the eastern sky beginning to lighten up just a bit.

    He could now make out the bean field across the road, and what looked like a coyote or small deer laying at the far edge of the field. He brought up his rifle and peered through the scope. His heart fell when he saw it was his neighbor’s retriever.

    “So, someone was out there last night,” he said quietly to himself. He swung the rifle left and right, scanning for anything that looked out of the ordinary. After a few minutes, he decided that whoever had been there had gone. But where?

    He stood up, stretched his legs, slung the Sendero on his shoulder and quickly went down the loft’s steps and headed for the rear of the barn. He checked to see if anyone was moving through the timber. No sounds, other than an early-rising robin announcing the coming sunrise. He scanned with the scope again to make sure someone wasn’t hiding in, or behind, the trees. Nothing.

    He went back to the front of the barn and checked the locks on the main entrance door as well as the sixteen foot sliding door. Locked. He hurried back to the other end of the barn locking the door behind him, then quickly moved down in the gully through the woods while there was enough darkness to conceal his movement… just in case he’d missed someone that could be waiting for him to exit the barn. He was tense, and something told him that he needed to get back to the cabin as quickly as he could in order to make sure Laura and Mahkah were okay.

    He tried to open the door to the walk-out basement when he reached the cabin, but it was locked. He peered inside and saw Mahkah sitting in the darkness in a chair near the door, but he couldn’t see if the shaman’s eyes were open or not. Mahkah suddenly got up, walked over to the door and turned the deadbolt. The Indian was smiling as he opened the door and quietly said to Ty, “Everything okay out there?”

    “Yep,” Ty replied, almost whispering. “Laura asleep?”

    “Yes she is. C’mon in, Ty.” Mahkah held the door open as the tall man with the rifle stooped down a bit to enter, ensuring the rifle barrel didn’t hit the top of the door frame.

    “You guys okay here?” Ty asked almost in a whisper while carefully laying the rifle down on the bar next to where Mahkah had put the scroll.

    “Sure are. Thanks for watching out for us last night,” Mahkah said, following Ty over to the bar. “Scroll is fine. We haven’t heard or seen anything since you went out there.” He paused for a moment, smiled and added, “At least, we haven’t seen anything in the physical realm. She and I had a dream exercise that caused her a little concern, but it didn’t last long.”

    Ty grinned and shook his head. “I think there’s scarier **** there than anything I’ve ever experienced looking down my rifle.” He tapped the scope with his finger gently, flashing back to what he’d seen looking through it during war and the chaos last month.

    “Oh, yes,” Mahkah chuckled. “Much scarier **** there than in the real world.”

    Ty remembered the dog laying out in the field. He jerked his head toward the south and said, “Something scary must have been out there last night, because he killed my neighbor’s Labrador to shut it up. What do you want to do now?”

    Mahkah frowned at that news and said, “Wait until the sun comes up so you can see better outside and make sure whoever killed the dog isn’t waiting for us. Then we’ll get your car and head for the lake with the scroll.”

    “Gas tank is probably good enough to get us there,” Ty said. “I’ll go upstairs and get some more hardware out of the gun safe. Dad’s also got some stuff in the back room down here in the basement we’ll probably need for the trip.”

    Mahkah nodded and said, “Since we don’t know exactly what we’re up against, or how many there are, you should take a good amount of everything. Guns, ammo, whatever you may need.”

    “As long as I can carry it,” Ty smiled. “I’ve got some gear for that, too.”

    “Good,” Mahkah said. “Be careful when you go upstairs. The doors were all locked but that doesn’t mean someone couldn’t be targeting us when the sun comes up.”

    “Be right back,” Ty said quietly, as he walked to the other end of the cabin’s basement to a spare bedroom that his Dad kept well stocked with reloading supplies, several military ammo cans full of ammunition, and hunting clothes.

    It was dark back there, though. The little amount of light coming in through the glass at the walkout basement didn’t reach to the rear of this part of the cabin, and Ty found himself groping around in the dark trying to feel for the ammo cans and the wardrobe that held hunting clothes. He felt his way past the reloading bench that held three ammunition reloaders, one for shotguns, a smaller one that was an old RCBS rock chucker single-stage press for rifle rounds, and the big progressive Dillon press used for pistol shells.

    It didn’t take him long to feel his way to the wardrobe and open it. In a few seconds, he’d located what he was looking for. A black mesh tactical vest with rifle magazine pockets, compass, knife sharpening stone and other gear, all ready to go.

    His Dad had always been an advocate of readiness and self-reliance, and had taught Ty from an early age how to hunt, fish, read game tracks and dress out meat for the table. Knowing these things had contributed to Ty’s living through Desert Storm, being decorated as a war hero, and ultimately, surviving the first couple weeks following the earthquake in St. Louis.

    Without the skill sets his Dad had taught him, Ty was sure he would be dead today. He’d mentally thanked him many times through the years, giving him full credit for his well-being.

    He just wished his Dad were here now, rather than being on a fishing trip. He could use some advice on how to best keep Laura and Mahkah safe. He’d been taught that a second opinion was always valuable because one man couldn’t always imagine of all the possibilities. But he didn’t need any help in the shooting or weaponry department – he was fully ready and well trained for that aspect of the trip they were about to undertake.

    Ty slipped on the vest, snapping the three plastic hooks to secure it. He then took up the slack to snug it in. He smiled, realizing his Dad was a little bigger around the waist than he was. He felt the pockets all around its front. There were several rifle magazines occupying them. It wasn’t necessary to open the pockets to see if the clips were empty or full. He simply flipped up on the bottom of each pocket that held one and could tell by the heavy bounce that they were all fully loaded. He counted six in all.

    Now, the only question to be answered was what type of magazines they were. He knew his Dad had a couple AR-15s, and at least one match grade AR-15, that all used the same magazine. But his Dad also owned an M1A Springfield that shot larger shells, but the magazines only held twenty instead of thirty shots. He squeezed the pocket on each and determined the vest was full of M1A mags, not AR-15s, based on the thickness and shorter length of them. He made a mental note to confirm his findings when there was more light and he could see better.

    Ty then slowly moved to the wall where he knew ammo cans were stored. He reached out with his foot in front and tapped one in the darkness. It made the familiar sound when his shoe hit the carrying handle that made a unique rattling sound. The rattle let him know he was in the right spot. He knelt down and tried to read the labels on the front of each can. It was too dark to see, so he reached in his pocket and produced a BIC lighter. He lit it only momentarily, just enough to read the label on each can. He found seven ammo cans in all, one that he wanted labeled ‘.308 Surplus, Lake City 1968’, and another with a label that said ‘.45 ACP, Winchester 230 Grain Ball’. He put the lighter back in his pocket and picked up those two ammo cans, turned and walked out of the room. It was slightly more light now and he could see Mahkah out in the rustic room patiently waiting for him.

    “Thought you got lost,” the shaman said chuckling as Ty came out of the back carrying the ammo cans. “Dark back there?”

    Ty laughed quietly and said, “Hell yeah, I could have killed myself falling over something. I had to go slow, plus I had to find some ammo that fits what I’m planning on taking along today.”

    Laura stirred and emitted a small moan. She’d been turned away from the windows, but rolled over and slowly opened her eyes.

    “Good morning, sunshine!” Ty said cheerily. “Sleep well?”

    Laura blinked her eyes several times quickly. She quickly wiped a little sliver of spit from her lips that apparently escaped while she was sleeping. She was embarrassed they might have seen it.

    “I drool all over my pillow every night,” Ty laughed.

    “At least it was a lady-like slobber,” Mahkah piled on.

    “Alright you guys,” Laura said grumpily, wiping the cobwebs from her mind. “Leave me alone.” Then she tried to smile as she took one more quick swipe with her hand to make sure she hadn’t missed any spit.

    “All gone,” Mahkah said chuckling.

    Laura dismissed him with a wave of her hand. “Is everything okay?” she asked. “You see anybody out there tonight, Ty?”

    “It’s fine now,” Ty said reassuringly. “But someone was out there earlier last night. He killed my neighbor’s dog, the one that was barking to warn us.”

    “Poor dog,” Laura said frowning. “So you didn’t see anyone?”

    “No, but I’m sure he or they will be looking for us this morning,” Ty replied. “I think we need to get a move on before it gets too light and they come after us.”

    “I agree,” Mahkah nodded. “It’s getting light enough that they could be watching the cabin. I’m going to wrap the scroll in a blanket so they can’t see what we’re loading in the car. Ty, you should do the same with your weapons.”

    Ty nodded and said, “They’ll be in rifle cases. Protects them more and keeps the scope from getting banged around.” He popped open one of the ammo cans and placed some of the .45 auto rounds in a zippered pocket of the tactical vest, then peeled open the Velcro pockets checking each one to make sure they contained loaded magazines. They were all .308 rounds for the M1A semi, several empty magazines and two loaded. He opened the other ammo can with the Lake City label on it and loaded the remainder of the magazines, then returned them all to their pockets on the vest. He firmly closed each one, pressing down hard to make sure they wouldn’t open up under duress.

    Mahkah had been watching Ty move with such dexterity, obviously knowing exactly what he was doing. He was sure this man was the right guy for the job. Laura had been watching Ty also, but her mind was oblivious to what he was actually doing. She was staring off in to space more than watching his movements.

    Laura suddenly sat up on the couch and looked at Mahkah. “I remember!” she said excitedly. “I remember a lot of that dream last night!”

    “Good!” Mahkah said, imitating her tone with a broad smile. “You’re one step closer to being able to control your dreams.”

    “You people are nuts,” Ty said, shaking his head but still smiling, glancing at both. “Sleep is for sleeping. And awake is for doing **** that you can remember!”

    His statement generated a laugh from both Mahkah and Laura, who looked at each other knowing they were spooking the big, tough macho guy. They all enjoyed the early morning moment blended with humor, happy and relieved in knowing they’d made it through the night unscathed.

    “Do you have coffee, Ty?” Laura asked. “I’m not worth a hoot unless I get some caffeine in the morning.”

    Ty chuckled, “Oh, hell yeah I got coffee. It ain’t cappuccino, but Dad must have ten cans of Folgers in the pantry upstairs. I’ll fire up the machine. Let’s go up.”

    Ty took the ammo cans and tactical vest with him up the steps, and motioned for them to stay until he gave them an all-clear sign. He reached the top of the steps and looked into the kitchen, then around the corner and into the great room of the cabin. He gave them a wave that the coast was clear to this level, hung the vest on a chair and quietly set down the ammo cans.

    Then he walked up the steps to the loft to make sure nobody was hiding up there or in any of the closets. He went through the bathrooms, peeked in the shower stalls just to make sure. There was nobody else in the cabin.

    Before heading up the stairs from the basement, Mahkah wrapped the canister with a small throw blanket that was neatly folded on the back of a chair. He and Laura walked up the steps slowly, giving Ty a chance to check out the rest of the cabin.

    When they reached the kitchen, Mahkah took a seat at the table while Laura went into the pantry to find the coffee. She found an open Folgers can, then found the coffee filters sitting right next to it on the shelf. “These people are organized,” she thought to herself, looking around at the neat rows of canned goods all organized by type. Ball jars on one end with home canned beets, tomatoes, hot peppers and potatoes. Several types of canned soup were in another row, the upper shelf had small sacks of good such as sugar, flour, pepper and salt. It made her feel even more safe knowing Ty had been raised by these people, although she had never met them. She’d noticed how clean and tidy the cabin’s interior had been, the simple yet elegant layout of furniture, comfortable lighting and the organization of the kitchen and pantry sealed her opinion of Ty’s parents.

    She had coffee going by the time Ty returned from the loft.

    “All’s clear,” Ty said, as he stood in front of the gun safe. Turning the S&G lock, he added, “Time to get out more firepower. I anticipate whoever killed the Lab did it for a reason.”

    “You’re right,” Mahkah said. Then he glanced at Laura and added with a smile, “I’m okay at keeping bad guys at bay in the dreaming state, but have my limitations in your real world. We’ll rely on Ty’s know-how to get us through today.”

    Glancing at Mahkah out of the corner of his eye while he turned the combination lock, Ty smiled and humbly said, “Then we’re all in a bunch of trouble.”

    “I doubt that,” Laura retorted. “I feel very comfortable right now, thank you very much.”

    “Yes,” Mahkah nodded. “I think we have the right formula for today’s quest.”

    With a tone of paranoia in her voice, Laura said, “Maybe we should turn on the news?” She looked at the TV sitting in one corner of the great room.

    “Sure,” Ty said as he swung the large safe door open. “Let’s see what today’s news has to offer.” He walked over to the television and turned it on. Laura’s curiosity was killing her, so she moved over to a corner of the kitchen that she could see inside the gun safe. It was full of guns, barrels all neatly sticking up in rows. Two shelves on top of the safe held pistols and small boxes of what she guessed was ammunition.
  13. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 16 (cont)

    “Oh my God!” Laura exclaimed. “How many guns you got in there?”

    Ty hit the remote control button to turn on the TV and turned around to answer Laura. “A few. A couple are mine, most are Dad and my step-Mom’s. Something for everything.”

    “I guess!” Laura said. “Your Mom shoot?”

    “She wins meat shoot contests all the time,” Ty said proudly. “And there’s a couple shotguns in there that my sister shoots, too. She leaves them here at Dad’s place because she doesn’t have a gun safe, and this is about the only place she shoots them anyway. She doesn’t hunt, but sometimes we have contests on shooting clay birds at family reunions here. My family loves hosting BBQs and bon-fires out here.”

    Laura was surprised to hear Ty had a sister, and especially interested in the fact that she was also a shooter. She asked, “Your sister a good shot?”

    The best,” Ty said, working hard to control his pride. “She breaks clay birds that our cousins and friends miss all the time, when they’re way out beyond where ya oughta be able to hit’em. She’s one of the best scatter gun shooters I’ve ever seen. No kidding.”

    “That is so cool,” Laura said. “I’d love to learn how to shoot clay birds. I’ve seen it on TV but didn’t know anyone that’s ever done it.”

    “I’ll be glad to teach you!” Ty volunteered. “It’s a lot of fun, and the best part is you don’t have to skin it or fry it when you make a good shot!” He smiled at Laura, figuring she’d like that part.

    “I don’t eat squirrels,” Laura said, rolling her tongue out like they were poison. Then she laughed with Mahkah and Ty as they exchanged glances, acknowledging they had already guessed that much.

    “You would if you were starving,” Mahkah said with a little seriousness to his voice. “Any meat is no better than none at all.”

    “I had squirrel two weeks ago and I’m still alive,” Ty chuckled. “But I have to admit suppressing an urge to gather and store walnuts for the winter.” All three laughed together.

    Returning to their topic, Laura looked at Ty and said, “I’d definitely like you teach me how to shoot. That is, if you don’t mind.”

    “I’d be honored,” Ty replied modestly as he retrieved one of the rifles from the safe. He and Laura’s eyes locked momentarily, no words being necessary for the moment. Mahkah saw the exchange, smiled, but said nothing.

    In those few seconds, Laura was wondering why no woman had ever snagged this guy. He was so honest, so forthcoming and up-front. Not complicated at all, unlike most of the men she’d dated had pretended to be. He was a man’s man, wonderfully simple but with communication and personality skills other men she knew lacked.

    Laura came to the conclusion at that moment that, although she was intimidated psychologically by guns, she would try to learn how to shoot. It would be a good way to get to know Ty better. There had to be something undesirable about him. A weird quirk or two that had scared off other women, perhaps. But she decided it would be interesting to see if any would surface. It could be very enjoyable.

    “What are you thinking?” Ty asked in a nervous tone. “You blanked out there! What’s up?” He grabbed an extra 20 round box of ammo for the Sendero and closed the safe’s door, giving the combination a turn to relock it.

    Laura came back to the discussion and smiled at him. “No,” she replied quickly, shaking her head. “I had a senior moment. I drifted off thinking about something. Sorry.”

    Mahkah chimed in, “You? Senior moment? Ha! You must be kidding me!”

    Mahkah chuckled. “When you’re my age, you can have those. But not before.”

    Ty leaned the rifle up against a dark corner of the room and returned to the kitchen. The coffee finished percolating, and he poured three cups, asking who wanted any cream or sugar, but everyone wanted it black. Laura saw the television was on but the volume was all the way down, so she walked over to it in order to get some sound.

    As she approached the TV, she saw a picture of stars of some kind being displayed on a Fox news channel. She read the caption at the bottom of the screen that said, “Huge meteor sighted”. It made her stop dead in her tracks for a second, then she hurried to the remote control and shouted to Ty and Mahkah to look at the TV.

    Mahkah stood up and joined Ty who was standing by the gun safe. As Laura increased volume on the remote, they all heard the news anchor with tension in his voice.

    “The meteor has been dubbed PK, and is now less than three days from Earth moving at 133,000 miles an hour. We have a report from the A-A-O Observatory in Australia, who has been tracking this rogue meteor for the past several hours.” The news anchor shifted his attention to a monitor down and in front of him while he adjusted his earpiece.

    The picture changed to a woman in a white lab coat, obviously not comfortable being on camera. The new anchor’s voice said, “Can you hear me, Doctor Capps?”

    The lady looked awkwardly toward the camera, waited several seconds to hear the question because of the time delay in communication, then was obviously relieved when she heard the anchor.

    “Yes,” she said with an uneasy smile. “I hear you.”

    “What can you tell us about this meteor? Preliminary reports are that it’s heading directly for Earth. Is that true?”

    The doctor shook her head quickly and said, “It is too early to tell with one hundred percent certainty, but we believe right now that it is going to be a very near miss. Perhaps within one million miles. We are still calculating its trajectory and time of arrival.”

    The news anchor’s voice continued the questioning. “Where did this thing come from? When was it first sighted?”

    Doctor Capps was flipping pages on a notebook as she answered the questions. “An amateur astronomer called it in to us about three hours ago, and we have confirmed it is indeed a meteor bound in this direction, approximately 3 miles in diameter moving at over 60 kilometers per second.” She turned another page and continued reading what the AAO staff had prepared for her. She quickly flipped another page, as if the information on the page she’d just seen was not good.

    The doctor was no longer smiling as she continued, “We believe this is a rogue meteor from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which is responsible for the beautiful Perseids meteor showers, similar to the Leonid meteor showers but not as frequent. Swift-Tuttle was last seen in 1992 when it passed Earth on its 130-year orbit around the sun. It was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. Its orbit has been traced back nearly two thousand years and is now thought to be the same comet that was observed in 188 A.D. and 69 B.C.”

    The news anchor interrupted her, his tone of aggravation very evident.
    “That’s a very informative history lesson on the comet, doctor. But what can you tell us about this particular meteor?”

    The doctor was flustered and had to flip to another page. She continued, “We were not expecting Swift-Tuttle back until 2126, when it was anticipated to be close enough for a naked-eye view like Hale-Bopp. But we are fairly certain this meteor is from Swift-Tuttle.” You could see a sigh of relief as she finished her report, as if someone had lifted the burden of the world off her shoulders.

    The news anchor was not satisfied and continued the barrage, “So, you really aren’t sure if it is not going to hit Earth, and you don’t know for sure where it came from.” His tone was flat and aggravated.

    After waiting for the communication delay to get to her, the doctor answered with a frown, “No, sir. As I said, we are still working on all those formulae and doing our best to be accurate in our reporting.”

    The news anchor quickly thanked the doctor for her help, and the picture abruptly changed to a new person in front of the camera. It was a face more familiar to everyone, the director of Homeland Security.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” he started, “we do not need a worldwide panic, and it will not serve any purpose to jump to conclusions while the experts are tabulating their numbers and forecasts of the meteor’s path. The Earth has greatly suffered this past month, beginning with the New Madrid earthquake, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, then the tsunami in Hawaii. And now, a meteor has been spotted that, I would like to remind you, is predicted to miss us.”

    He took off his glasses and looked up from the papers in front of him, staring into the camera as if eye contact would reassure people the disasters were just a coincidence.

    “The scientific community has no explanation for the narrow timeframe these disasters have occurred within. But let me assure you, there are no external forces at work, no weapons exist that the terrorists are using against us that can cause these naturally occurring phenomenon to happen.”

    He looked down for a moment, as if to refresh his memory. Then, back in to the camera to deliver his explanation for what was going on. “We believe these disasters are being caused by global warming.” He then began picking out reporters sitting in front of him, pointing at them to ask their questions.

    My God,” Laura said quietly.

    “God, indeed!” Mahkah exclaimed. In a sarcastic tone he added, “And it’s all the fault of global warming. Including meteors from outer space! They must believe the public is made up of idiots if we’re supposed to swallow that garbage!”

    Ty was at a loss for words. Several expletives crossed his mind but he thought it better not to open his mouth with a lady present.

    The news report broke to a commercial and Laura pressed mute on the remote. She looked at Mahkah and asked, “What can we do? Did the scroll cause this?”

    “Possibly,” Mahkah replied. “But there is no way to know for sure. What I can tell you is that change is coming. Mother Earth, and forces beyond our capacity of understanding, are at work that we may be helpless to interdict.” He’d been looking outside, watching for anything out of the ordinary as the sun rise slowly brightened the day.

    “Remember, dear,” Mahkah added, looking back at Laura, “we did open the scroll yesterday.”

    Laura felt for the chair next to her. She had to sit down. Her mind was spinning out of control, trying to reason how a small piece of metal could be responsible for everything going on.

    Ty walked over behind where she sat in the chair and gently squeezed her shoulders from behind. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the cushions behind her and spoke softly, nearly whispering in her ear.

    “It’s not your fault,” he assured her. “You haven’t had any control since this crazy **** began. You didn’t start it, you can’t control stars or meteors, and you haven’t hurt anyone. Quit thinking you’re responsible for this.”

    “But I am!” Laura insisted.

    No, you are not,” Mahkah stated matter-of-factly, looking at them both. “But the scroll is responsible. We have to get going.” He looked at Ty and asked, “Are we ready?”

    “Yes. Let me get it together and we’ll roll for the lake.” He squeezed Laura’s shoulders one more time before he left, as if to say, ‘Hang in there’.

    Ty went to a closet and took out two gun cases. One was for his .300 magnum Remington Sendero, the rifle he’d had with him last night in the barn. The other case was for his Dad’s Springfield Armory M1A national match semi-auto rifle. His .45 Colt auto was still under his shirt in its shoulder holster, where it would remain.

    He carried the ammo cans out the door, through a small runway between the garage and the rear of the kitchen. Moving quickly, he put them in the rear of the Jeep Cherokee, next to Laura’s scuba tank and equipment bag. He peered out the small windows near the top of the garage doors, looking south toward the hard road to see if there was anything out of the ordinary.

    He hurried back inside the cabin, where he saw Mahkah had the canister wrapped in a blanket laying on the kitchen table.
  14. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 16 (cont)

    Laura was squirting mustard on several pieces of bread, making sandwiches with some ham and cheese she’d found in the refrigerator. Ty went to the cabinets, pulled down several baggies and handed them to her. He then grabbed three Dasani water bottles out of the fridge, put them in a plastic grocery sack and motioned for Mahkah to follow him. Ty grabbed the tactical vest on the kitchen chair and slung it over his shoulder on his way out the door.

    “Be right back,” Ty told Laura. When you’re done there, we’re outta here.”

    “Okay. Just a minute,” she answered. She glanced quickly at him and managed a smile as he went to the garage again. But he was already out the door and missed it. But Mahkah was following close behind, and he saw it. The Indian grinned back at her as if to say, “You should show him that smile again.”

    The two men reached the garage and Mahkah climbed into the back seat of the Cherokee, placing the scroll on the seat next to him, partially resting some of it on his lap. He figured to be quite comfortable for the journey, although he admittedly didn’t like touching the scroll. He’d chosen to sit behind Ty, so they could all talk without Laura twisting all the way around in the front seat. He could also watch the road behind them for Ty.

    Ty hurried back into the kitchen, where Laura had completed putting the sandwiches in baggies and into another grocery sack.

    “Ready?” he asked.

    “Ready. You all loaded for bear?” she threw that smile at him again, knowing he’d see it this time.

    “Glad you’re feeling better,” he said. As he moved across the kitchen past her to make sure all the doors were locked, he gently kissed her on the cheek. Quickly, but not too fast. He’d paused just long enough for Laura to realize what he was doing. She didn’t react or pull back, but rather stood there surprised.

    She could smell his after shave, feel just a little moisture on his lips, and then he squeezed the top half of her arm as he broke the kiss and moved away to check the doors.

    The simple kiss caused an immediate reaction within Laura. She could feel it. Tension ebbed quickly. It was as if someone had just popped the balloon that was within her making her feel like she was going to explode with nervousness.

    After Ty had checked all the doors, he rejoined her in the kitchen. He took her hand and said, “Time to go, doctor.”

    Laura stayed planted where she was. Although he’d tugged her a bit toward the garage door, she resisted and pulled him back to her. She moved in to him, going tippy-toe to get up to his level, and kissed him passionately on the lips. Ty responded in kind, feeling a surge of emotion washing over him.

    Even though they were hurried and in great danger from someone that was after what they possessed, it was, without a doubt, the best thing they could do at that moment. There had been a thin veil of mystery between them both, each wondering at different times about the other. Could this attraction be for real?

    And now they knew. Ty and Laura pulled away from their kiss, looked each other in the eyes and didn’t say anything. There was no need to.

    “Okay, now we’ve got to stay alive today,” Ty said with a smile. “That was too good not to have another when this is over.”

    Laura giggled a little at how he’d said it. It relieved a tension of another kind. “Oh, yes,” she agreed.

    Ty picked up both rifle cases, fairly heavy together. He motioned for her to follow him, then led her out to the Jeep, where Mahkah had been wondering what was taking so long. But the way they were moving together, with smiles on both their faces, the old shaman could guess at what had taken a bit more time.

    He was still smiling as Ty laid the cases in the rear of the Jeep and Laura climbed into the passenger’s seat. Ty slammed the hatch closed, punched the buttons on an alarm panel to arm the system, and quickly hopped into the driver’s seat. He pressed the button on the remote to open the garage door, started the engine, put the 5-speed manual shifter into reverse, and looked in his rear-view mirror to back out of the garage.

    “What are you smiling at?” Ty asked Mahkah, seeing the big grin still on his face in the mirror.

    I think you know,” the shaman replied coyly.

    Laura turned slightly in her seat and smiled back at Mahkah.

    As they pulled away, Ty hit the remote door button to close the garage and they headed down the lane toward the hard road.

    Ty was smart not to open the garage door until they were ready to leave.
    Several hundred yards away, sitting up against a tree to conceal his outline, Korchenko sat peering through his Russian rifle scope. He cursed his luck that he’d not been given an opportunity to take a shot.

    He’d seen them in the kitchen picking up things that were apparently being loaded into a car in the garage. But the distance was too great to make out any details for sure because his scope didn’t have enough magnification. He was fairly certain the taller man had picked up something that looked like it could be rifle cases. He wondered if what he was after was hidden in the cases. He was hoping it wasn’t guns.

    And now, they were rolling down the lane directly at him. As they got closer, he could make out more details. He placed the crosshairs on the driver of the Jeep.

    He immediately recognized who it was. He had meticulously memorized the face of the man who had almost killed him a month ago.

    “So! Tyler Massey!” Korchenko was elated. His pulse immediately shot up, his adrenaline kicking in hard, although he’d trained all his life to suppress this type of emotional reaction.

    “What incredible luck,” the Russian sniper said to himself. “We have some unfinished business. I get rich from what you and your lady friend are carrying, and get to kill you in the process. We will conclude our business today.”

    Korchenko clicked off the safety on the Dragunov as the Jeep got closer, the scope’s crosshairs centered on its driver. He estimated the range now at a little over 300 meters. His mind was working out all the possibilities.

    Windage bullet drift wasn’t an issue because there was very little breeze this morning. Angle of target, no problem because the Jeep was coming straight at him. Elevation, no problem inside a few hundred meters because his scope was zeroed at 200. Bullet deflection through the windshield. Hummm. The 7.62 X 54mm would have no problem penetrating the glass, but the angle of the windshield could cause some upward deflection that was often a variable difficult to determine.

    And what about the metal object that would be in the car? It would be worthless to him if the bullet struck it. That was the worst variable of all.
    He knew nearly all the advantages were on his side right now. The element of surprise was his friend. But what about the metal container? Where was it? Front seat? Rear seat? There was no way to know for sure. Korchenko reluctantly put the rifle’s safety back on.

    He made a decision to wait. He’d simply follow them until he could determine for sure where the metal object was, and that indeed they had it with them. And he could still have surprise as an ally, as long as he was careful not to tail them too closely. At his first opportunity, after confirming where the metal canister was, he would kill Massey first, and the other two with him.

    And then, he would retire a rich man. He deserved it. He had worked his entire life for this, and within a few hours, it would all be within his reach.
    Deep down inside, he loved playing cat and mouse. It had always made him feel so much alive. Everyone he had always played that game with had been the mouse, he the cat. Because he was the best in the world, and he knew it. Every kill he’d made with his rifle, against some of the very best snipers, had proved it.

    As the Jeep turned from the lane onto the hard road and drove well away from him, Korchenko stood up and hurried back to his car. Carrying the rifle low at arm’s length, rather than slinging it on his shoulder in case anyone saw him leaving the field, he ran as hard as he could, half bent over to minimize his profile. He was well concealed by the trees in the fence row, but could still see the Jeep moving away from him toward the Red Ball Trail country road and he didn’t want them to spot him. He knew the Jeep would pass in front of his hidden car on its way in to Greenville, and was hoping they wouldn’t spot it behind the brush as they went by.

    He reached his car, breathing heavily. He tossed the Dragunov on the rear seat, hopped in behind the wheel and laid down across both front seats. His side window was open an inch and he could hear a car approaching. Then it passed. And kept going. He was relieved.

    Mahkah reached forward and tapped Ty on the shoulder. He hadn’t said anything yet when Ty nodded and said, “Yes, I saw it.”

    Laura looked at him quickly and asked, “What did you see?”

    Ty glanced off to the right side and answered, “A black car, parked on the tractor access road behind us to the right. Mostly concealed, but I saw it. A Ford Taurus, I believe.”

    Mahkah was nodding. He said, “I definitely felt something when we drove by. Evil and menacing. I think you should stay vigil in the rear view mirror, Ty.”

    “I plan on it,” Ty nodded. “And you watch back there for me too, please.”

    “No problem,” the shaman said. “Maybe I’m along for something other than just a nice morning drive in the country.” He chuckled, hoping a little levity would relieve the strain that was apparent on Laura’s face as she listened to them.

    “Shouldn’t we just stop and go back there?” she asked. “I mean, wouldn’t that be the best way to see if that’s who killed the dog?”

    “Oh no,” Ty said, glancing at her momentarily. “If they think we didn’t notice them, it’ll be to our advantage if they follow us.”

    “Right,” Mahkah agreed.

    Laura was noticeably worried. She looked back at Mahkah and asked, “But what if they go to Ty’s cabin and break in?”

    Ty gently patted her arm and said, “Dad’s got some good security around there. Six video cameras, two on the barn and four in and around the house, all feeding a very well hidden computer where it’s all stored. The gun safe is locked up tight, we have the scroll, and it would be fine with me if they go to the cabin rather than follow us. That would give us the head start we need to lose’em.”

    They rounded the first turn on the country road and lost sight of the straightaway behind them. Ty unconsciously pressed down a little harder on the Cherokee’s accelerator. He wanted to put as much distance between them and the car as possible.

    “Anyone coming?” Ty asked.

    Mahkah looked in the rear view mirror so he could see Ty’s eyes and said, “No. Can’t see that part of the road any more.” Mahkah looked at Laura, who was leaned a bit forward in her seat, looking at the passenger’s outside mirror.

    “Don’t worry dear, we’re going to be fine,” Mahkah said, trying to relax her. “Stay focused on what you’re going to have to do when we get there.”
    He looked in the back of the Jeep and asked her, “How much air do you have in that tank, anyway?”

    Laura thought about his question before answering, because she hadn’t considered it before. She turned to look at Mahkah and said, “I hope enough. I used quite a bit during the dive when I found the scroll, but I returned to the surface immediately after that. I don’t remember checking my gauges. I started with almost 3,000 pounds of pressure, what they call a divemaster’s fill, and if I have at least a thousand pounds left it may be enough for me to be able to find that cave again. That is, if I can find the damn thing. It’s nearly zero visibility.”

    “I’ll see if I can’t help you with a little extra energy,” Mahkah smiled. “A little energy and spiritual assistance never hurt anybody.”

    Korchenko sat up in his seat and looked around. There was a truck coming way up the road, heading in the direction he wanted to go. He started the engine, pulled forward through the foot-high grass and stopped at the edge of the hard road, waiting on the truck to pass. He would use it as cover, providing it was moving fast enough to keep him from falling too far behind Massey’s Jeep.

    A Ford F-150 passed and Korchenko was glad to see it was rolling along at a good clip. He pulled out behind it and hit the gas. Once he’d caught up with the truck, he tucked in closely behind it to conceal his car from anyone out in front. It required patience because he wanted to go much faster.

    But he also thought the Americans hadn’t seen his car.

    He was safe to pursue them until the opportunity presented itself.
    And then, the cat and mouse would be over.

    End Chapter 16
  15. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 17


    It was early morning in New York, and the streets were bustling with traffic, some people hurrying to get to work. Restaurants that didn’t open until later in the morning had chefs busily preparing the day’s special, lunches and dinners. But many people had called off work because of the news about the meteor, choosing instead to stay home with their families. Although governments and some scientists around the world had been insisting that the Earth was not in the path of the big inbound rock, a large percentage of people had not been convinced.

    The Internet was a buzz with people posting messages on blogs saying that they didn’t believe the governments. They insisted it was a cover-up and the sky was indeed falling. Many Christian fundamentalists, including nearly all evangelical television preachers were ranting and raving that Christ’s return was upon us and the prophecies foretold in the Book of Revelation were beginning to unfold. The monster earthquake, a volcanic eruption and a tsunami all within a month’s time frame had convinced millions of people worldwide that the doomsday crowd might actually be right. The TV preachers pleaded for their audiences to send money before the meteor arrived. Judgment Day was upon us, but there was still time to save your soul if you gave to their ministry.

    Instead of going to work, millions chose vacation days or called in sick to allow them time to stock up food and water. Telephone lines were choked near capacity the last several hours while everyone called their loved ones to make sure they knew about the incoming meteor.

    And millions sat in churches around the world, regardless of religious orientation or denomination. Millions of Christians were expecting the Rapture to sweep them off the Earth at any moment, saving them the pain and misery certainly to come with the seven year Tribulation. Surely it was the Muslim terrorists who had brought this misery upon the world.

    Muslims were praying to Allah to save them from any more catastrophes. They considered it unfair they should be made to suffer when it was America who had destabilized the world with its wars and bullying. Its false claims of terrorism and making war against smaller nations it could easily overrun had brought these cataclysms upon the Earth. Waging war in the name of religion, when all Islam knew it was really about oil and control, surely would bring the meteor to rest in the middle of the United States.

    Hindu followers had remained passive to a large extent during these recent years of war in the Middle East, choosing peace over war, and love over hate. 890 million people, the third largest religion behind Islam and Christianity were praying to their Gods to help them live through these trying times that the Earth was undergoing, that the madmen running the warring nations would perish and be punished.

    Judaism followers had known for centuries these times were coming. Had the Palestinian invaders allowed them to live in peace, the disasters of the last month, and all those to yet occur, need not happen at all. But now, surely God’s wrath was upon the Earth and only the chosen few, God’s people, would survive.

    And crime around the globe had spiked heavily the last four hours.

    Worldwide, police departments had more calls for assistance than they could possibly handle. Home break-ins, burglary, rape, car jackings, all forms of crime increased because of the incoming meteor. Apparently, retribution and punishment became a minor consideration if a planet killer was going to wipe mankind from Earth.

    Towns throughout America that had banned firearm ownership within their city limits were the hardest hit. Washington D.C., Morton Grove and Chicago, Illinois and many others like them, where homeowners were guaranteed victims to the predators, found their police forces unable to slow the crime to any extent at all. Some police officers from those cities had simply gone home, choosing to protect their own families rather than the town as a whole.

    The predators, of course, had guns because penalties for owning them illegally were not severe enough. And that criminal charge, when added to more significant crimes during an arrest, had often become a chip in the plea bargaining process within the American court system.

    Some cities had done the exact opposite, encouraging citizens with the Castle Doctrine and other similar legislation that had not penalized owners for protecting their homes and families. Cities and states that had focused on the realistic statistics of violent crime could see numbers were much lower in areas that didn’t penalize law abiding citizens for protecting themselves. And now, their legislators’ clearer vision was paying off.

    Those cities had not seen nearly as much of an increase in crime the last four hours, and several had even offered their deputy marshals and auxiliary police to other municipalities who were drowning in the crime wave. The last couple hours had seen mayhem completely over the top in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, the big cities that had deprived law abiding citizens of their God-given right of self-defense. Looting and violent crime to a grand scale that made the L.A. riots of 1992 pale in comparison.

    And it was in New York that restaurants were preparing to serve salads that Habib and Muhammad had provided an extra deadly salad dressing. With the crime wave already filling hospitals to capacity, the Big Apple’s management had no idea that the tainted lettuce would kill over twelve thousand people within the next 24 hours.

    * * * * *​

    Two men were finishing breakfast in a small, quiet restaurant just a few blocks from the White House. It was a restaurant that was a regular meeting spot for intelligence personnel because it was well guarded and swept for bugs and listening devices early every morning.

    Steve Fleming, a National Security Agency intel chief, and Frank Brunowski, the CIA section head for the D.C. area, had been quietly discussing the challenges facing America in light of the news regarding the meteor.

    Both men had been instrumental in bringing to justice those involved in the terrorist plot a month before. When Joe Morris, the President of the United States, had been assassinated in Chicago while stepping out of Air Force One, and news reached them about Iranian terrorists posing as U.N. relief forces, these two men had been the quiet patriots that helped bring an end to the attack.

    To their knowledge, most, or all of those involved in the terrorist plot were either dead or in prison. Most of the terrorists carrying the Ebola had died of their own poison, and two of the teams had been interdicted by combined FBI and CIA strike forces before they could hit their target cities. One Iranian squad had been successfully recalled by the new Iranian president, after FardAd, who had launched the attack against America, was killed by his own sheiks and cabinet members.

    Only two teams remained that they hadn’t been successful in stopping. One, now assumed to be in Dallas, and the other was yet to surface. They were hoping that the new Iranian regime had been quietly successful in recalling that squad also.

    Fleming had ordered the murder of the American accomplice, the President’s Chief of Staff, Jay Springer, because of his involvement in assisting the Iranians in the Ebola terrorist attack. It had been a difficult decision to make, because Springer had been married to his sister, Diane. Fleming’s loyalty to the United States had been severely tested, and for his strength, he was given a promotion and a very quiet celebration in his honor.

    What Fleming and Brunowski hadn’t yet learned was that the Vice President, Cliff Parker, had also been an accomplice in the plot. And that man now lived in the White House, with a very large bank account in Brazil under the name of a bogus corporation.

    And nobody, that was left alive anyway, knew the new President of the United States had been involved. Fleming and Brunowski had their suspicions, but intel thus far had not implicated him. They were still in a ‘wait and see’ mode, ready to act, but silently hoping it wouldn’t be required. America had suffered enough.

    “So, Frank,” Fleming continued, “tell me what you’re hearing about the meteor.” A waitress came up to clean off their table, so both men remained quiet while she balanced their dirty dishes in one hand as she wiped down the table with the other. When she was out of hearing range, both men leaned forward over the table to continue.

    “I’m not entirely sure yet,” Brunowski replied in his gruff voice, “but I’m starting to believe the doomsday crowd.” He chuckled, “Actually, I still haven’t formed an opinion. But I did send my family to their relatives in southern Ohio, just in case.”

    Fleming smiled. He took a sip of coffee and said, “Judging by the size of the damn thing, the moon may be the only place that’s safe.”

    Brunowski raised his eyebrows, and in a flat tone said, “No ****. It’ll make one helluva splash.”

    Fleming nodded in agreement. Then he asked, “Anything from the new Iranian president on getting their strike teams to return?”

    Brunowski shook his head and frowned, “Nothing from my end. Anything from yours?”

    “Not a peep,” the NSA chief replied. “My guys have had a bit more luck getting information out of their new administration, and the Israelis still have their informant planted deep inside the cabinet. But by all indications, it looks like these guys aren’t our enemies any more.”

    “I think our enemies are inside our borders, now,” Brunowski growled. “It’s the ****ing criminals raping and pillaging our cities. They don’t wear towels on their heads, but they might as well. They’re causing more damage to America than any number of Goddamned terrorists could.”

    “Agreed,” Fleming nodded. “Not much we can do about it, though. Calling out the National Guard was a step in the right direction, but they’re still deploying and won’t be in a position to start helping for hours, maybe days.”

    Brunowski took a drink of coffee, emptying his cup. He sat it down a bit too hard on the saucer, almost breaking it. He was angry.

    “****ers,” was all Brunowski could say. “I’ve never felt so damn helpless. The earthquake was trivial compared to what’s happening to the nation right now.”

    End Chapter 17
  16. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 18


    Ty was rolling west down I-70 toward Lake Mississippi in the old Cherokee, listening to Laura and Mahkah talk about things he really didn’t want to hear. They’d been discussing the two entities in Laura’s dream the night before.

    “I’m getting really creeped out, you guys,” Ty insisted. “Why in hell would anyone in their right mind want to dabble with spooky characters like that in your dreams?” He glanced in his rear view mirror to make sure the black Taurus wasn’t behind them. “I’m glad I can’t remember mine.”

    “Because,” Mahkah explained, “it is a big segment of enlightenment. Mastering your dreams is a required step to getting more in touch with your subconscious mind and your spirit. And it is an area that science truly understands very little about.”

    “And that’s why,” Laura added, “I’m so interested. Essentially, I’m a scientist. And that means I’m curious about what’s there, what our capabilities are, what goes on there that we rarely remember.”

    She looked at Ty, who had a small frown on his face. Laura said, “I’m sorry if it’s a little unnerving for you. I really am.” She sincerely didn’t want to alienate him at this point, so the best thing to do was try and explain her curiosity.

    “I haven’t been living under a rock, ya know,” Ty said, glancing quickly sideways at her while keeping his eyes on the road in front and the rear view mirror behind. “I’ve heard about meditation and all that stuff. I even saw something about Edgar Cayce on the history channel once, and I have to admit, it was pretty interesting.”

    Mahkah said, “Very good!” Mahkah was glad Ty had seen something about Cayce. It was common ground. “Then you know he was the most thoroughly documented psychic in history. He did thousands of readings on people, very accurate readings, while in a sleeping state.”

    “He was called the sleeping prophet, right?” Ty asked. “On TV they said that he did all of his stuff laying on a couch, being asked questions by some lady while he was asleep.”

    “Yes!” Mahkah replied, enthused that Ty understood a bit. Then he asked, “So, how do you think he tapped that warehouse of information while he was sleeping?”

    “I’ve never really thought about it,” Ty admitted, shaking his head. “So,” he paused for a moment, then asked, “is this the stuff that you’re working with Laura? Psychic ****?”

    Laura looked at Mahkah, anxious for his answer.

    “Yes and no,” the shaman replied. “There are so many infinite possibilities of what the mind and spirit does, and can do, while the subconscious is active during sleep that I hate to just call it psychic stuff. But, as I told Laura yesterday evening, absolutes and small packages are how our brains seem to prefer information. So, yes, in a word, the dream state is just one faction of what Laura’s working on. And she’s just scratched the surface, beginning to work on her lucid dreams. There is so much more to do there, but one has to start somewhere.”

    Mahkah turned and looked behind them again, just as Laura said excitedly, “I think I saw a black car back there! Way back, about a half mile or so.”
    Ty nodded once and replied, “When we hit long straight stretches in the road, I’ve seen a black one back there several times. But then we turn and it drops out of sight.”

    “There’s no way to know if it’s the Taurus we’re concerned about,” Mahkah said, still looking to the rear.

    Laura said hopefully, “But if it is, they apparently don’t want us to know they’re there. Maybe they’re just following with no intent on doing us any harm!”

    Mahkah looked at her, smiled his big grin and said, “I doubt that, dear. I’m sure they know the scroll cannot be theirs without a fight.”

    “Then let’em bring it,” Ty said in a disgusted tone. “Spying on us outside the cabin, killing a great dog, keeping a distance, playing friggin’ games. Cowards.”

    “Don’t be too anxious!” Mahkah said with a chuckle. “And be careful what you wish for.”

    Ty glanced in his mirror again and said, “I just wish I knew who it was, how many of’em there are, and whether they’re armed or not.”

    “I would suspect they are,” Mahkah replied. “That’s why I recommended you bring weapons. There’s a lot at stake here.”

    Ty checked the Jeep’s instruments. 75mph, a little better than a half-tank of gas. He calculated they had plenty to make the lake’s shoreline on the east side.

    “So, where are we heading exactly?” he asked Laura.

    Laura used her finger on the dash to draw an imaginary line.

    She said, “Head to Belleville, then swing south toward Valmeyer. Since I-255 is completely under water, you need to hit route 3 in Red Bud, peel off and go through Foster Pond on route 156, and the cave is just past that near Valmeyer.”

    Ty nodded, “I know the route. My Dad used to belong to one of the sportsmen’s clubs just south of Belleville, between Millstadt and Smithton. I caught my first fish there when I was about four years old. Small world.” He smiled at Laura, then quickly glanced in his rear view mirror again.

    “They’re still back there,” he said. “I just glimpsed that black car passing route 4. I think it is a Taurus. We merge with I-55 just a few miles up the road. We’re about forty-five minutes from the lake.”

    “The government has repaired the bridges on I-159 south since the earthquake,” Laura said. “They’re still working on a couple, but we came that route back to Fairview the day I found the scroll.”

    That made her think of her students. She looked at Mahkah and said, “I hope Josh and Katie are okay.”

    “I’m sure they are,” Mahkah replied. “And they’re probably wondering the same about you.”

    She smiled at Mahkah and said, “They needn’t worry. As long as I’m with you and Ty, there isn’t much to worry about.”

    “You’re in good hands,” Ty said as he patted her arm.

    * * * * *

    Korchenko saw the green Cherokee go over the ridge, then out of sight. He had the Taurus tucked up behind a big Nissan SUV, tailgating more than he should have, but at least the driver of this SUV hadn’t nailed his brakes to shake the Taurus off his bumper. Several drivers hadn’t liked his tailgating and had tapped their taillights to get him to go around. He’d been following this Nissan for almost twenty miles.

    So,” Korchenko thought to himself, “where are you going, Massey? And how much gas have you got left?” He was hoping that the Cherokee would stop to refuel. It was fairly remote out in this part of Illinois, and he’d planned on just pulling up next to them and taking the metal canister at gunpoint. He’d also decided he would shoot Massey before leaving, with very little chance of being caught out here. It would take county deputies a long time, he calculated, to arrive on the scene. And he would be long gone by then.

    The competitive sniper in him wanted to finish what they’d started a month ago, sniper versus sniper, at extreme range. But the practical side of him knew that the American might get in a lucky shot, even though it was not likely. For almost an hour he’d deliberated on what he’d do if that situation arose. It was almost to the point of being a daydream, an embedded wish, to prove to himself that he was superior to Massey.

    His Makarov was on the seat next to him, the Dragunov scoped rifle under his sleeping bag rolled out on the back seat. He’d left the rifle fully loaded, just in case he needed it in a hurry. And the Makarov, well, it was always loaded. It was a tool of his trade in Chicago.

    The traffic coming toward him from the west seemed unusually heavy. He’d noticed many trucks loaded down, their beds packed with furniture, refrigerators and other household items. He thought it strange that it looked like a national moving day or something. Nearly all the traffic was headed east on I-70, away from the eastern shoreline of Lake Mississippi.

    Korchenko did not yet know there was a meteor heading toward Earth, and that the hoards of people coming at him were bugging out of the more populated areas. They were heading to who-knew-where, but getting out nevertheless. These were the poor unfortunates who had survived the killer quake, then the chaos and anarchy that had immediately followed. They did not want to try it again. They’d learned it was better to become a refugee and hope for the best in another area, than it was to stick it out and fight for a small parcel of land. Many of these people had very little fight left. Or had the weapons and ammunition to live through a round two.

    The trio had the Jeep radio tuned to KMOX in St. Louis. There had been constant ongoing coverage about the meteor since they had turned it on twenty minutes earlier. Neither of the three said much during the broadcast, waiting instead for commercial breaks to discuss what they had just heard. Scientists had been interviewed for their opinions, and a representative from Homeland Security kept insisting all was going to be well.

    One astronomer had been given only a few minutes’ air time with a short segment of an interview, where her computer simulations repeatedly kept coming up with the same conclusion; That the Earth was in a direct line of intercept with the meteor. She had even calculated the point of impact based upon the Earth’s speed of rotation.

    She said the meteor would strike in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

    Immediately following the commercial break, they’d listened to a report coming out of New York about a sudden virus outbreak similar to what had hit Dallas. But this one in New York, for some unknown reason, was affecting many more people. The reporter speculated that the number of those infected might be as high as a couple thousand. The reporter went on to say that hospitals were not able to take any additional patients, the looting and crime had limited their ability to provide care for all the victims. And now, with viral outbreak to compound their problems, a state of emergency had been announced by the governor, and the National Guard planned on setting up temporary hospitals in and around New York City as a stop-gap measure.

    End Chapter 18
  17. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    Been Busy - Sorries.

    Apologies for a few day gap in posting the chapters. Life calls occasionally. :)

    For those of you who read the first novel, I hope you're enjoying its sequel. It's been pretty quiet and with nobody saying anything, there's no way to know if it's 1) being read, 2) enjoyed or 3) hated. Have received a couple PMs asking for autographed copies as soon as it's in print - I'm flattered and I'm more than glad to do that as soon as it's available.

    I've been asked to give a presentation to a book club in St. Louis on "A Matter of Timing" soon and am going to order some copies for a signing there. If you'd like me to get you one, just shout here in the forum or PM.

    I hope you're liking it so far. :)
  18. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 19


    Cliff Parker, the Nation’s new president, Frank Brunowski, Steve Fleming, and three cabinet members were sitting in the oval office discussing the crisis.

    There was a seventh man also present, relatively new to these high-level meetings; Spencer McMillan was the president’s new Chief of Staff. The president had been careful in selecting a replacement for Jay Springer.

    Parker had known McMillan since their days back in Yale together.

    Very few people knew the truth about the late Jay Springer’s involvement with the Iranian terrorists, and that list had been kept very short indeed.
    Only Brunowski and Fleming were privileged to that information, and the president had thus-far been successful in deflecting any suspicion on himself by claiming he knew nothing about it.

    Springer had been given a hero’s burial, complete with the American flag and a 21-gun salute. The ceremony had been quite a gala affair, in the opinions of Brunowski and Fleming anyway, because the man had in reality been a traitor.

    They had both done extensive digging on the new Chief of Staff to see if there was anything to worry about with the new kid on the block. To date, nothing had indicated any shady relationships, but they still had their collective eyes on McMillan, as well as the president. Neither were completely convinced that Parker had nothing to do with the assassination of Joe Morris, who was, up until last month, one of the most popular presidents since JFK.

    And he had suffered the same fate.

    Brunowski, in his hard-assed straight-at-you manner, had told Steve Fleming over a drink in a bar one night, that perhaps it was safer to be a pandering womanizer, despised by half of America. “A guy might live through his second term if he’s an obvious hate target,” Brunowski had said, chuckling at the irony of it all.

    Sitting in the waiting area outside the oval office was a man carrying an overstuffed leather brief case. He was dressed in an older suit with a tie entirely too short for his build. His black shoes had scuffed toes and were very worn on the soles. Dr. Michael Platt was the assistant director of the astronomy division within NASA. While he waited to be called in to the meeting, he leafed through his folios reviewing his most recent notes. His palms were sweaty, and he was dreading the next few minutes of his life.

    * * * * *​

    “To Hell with this cat and mouse bull****,” Ty growled. “I’m tired of running and not knowing who’s chasing us.”

    “It is not time to turn and fight yet,” Mahkah said in a calm tone. “This is playing out exactly how it’s supposed to. Patience, young man.”

    “There might be more of them than you can handle, Ty,” Laura insisted. “You could be completely outnumbered.”

    Ty shook his head and said disgustedly, “I’ve been outnumbered before.”

    Mahkah laughed. He looked in the mirror so he could see Ty’s eyes and said, “But you had the luxury there of knowing who you were fighting. That is not the case now. I haven’t told either of you about my dreams last night.”

    Laura looked at him quickly and said, “But I thought your dreams were with me last night.”

    “Partially,” Mahkah nodded, “but I also had another dream. Wakanda, my mentor, visited me again last night. She is the one who told me to find you and Ty.”

    That name rang a distant bell for Laura, but she couldn’t pull back where the memory came from. A dream? Someone she’d known? She had to ask Mahkah about her while she tried to recall that name.

    “Really? Tell me about her, if you can,” Laura pleaded.

    Mahkah realized Laura had let the dream she’d had with he and Wakanda slip from memory. He shook his head, saying, “Please trust me when I tell you I’ll explain more about her when we have more time. But right now, I’ll be brief and you both will just have to believe me.”

    “Go on,” Ty said in a sarcastic tone. “Lay it on us.” He glanced at Laura as if to say, “I wish you guys would chill on this dream ****.”

    “There is a meteor heading for Earth,” Mahkah said slowly. “And it is going to hit. It has been sent by those entities I explained to you about, Laura.”

    “The terrarium people?” Laura asked quietly.

    Ty looked wide-eyed at Laura. Then he glanced in his mirror at Mahkah.

    Say WHAT?” Ty exclaimed. He looked at both of them again, this time with a scowl on his face because he was utterly in the dark.

    Laura realized how silly she’d sounded when she said it, and Mahkah was already laughing so hard he couldn’t control himself.

    “Yes, dear” Mahkah said, answering Laura, “the terrarium people. The scroll, you know. Refresh the Earth time.”

    “What in the Hell are you two talking about?” Ty said in a frustrated voice. “You both sound loony.”

    Mahkah was still smiling, chuckling at Ty’s reaction. “Continuing our conversation from last night, Ty. Sorry about that. I’ll explain it all to you when this is over. But right now, we need to stay focused on getting to the cave.” He glanced at the metal canister next to him on the seat and added, “We have to get this beautiful object back to its home.”

    Laura glanced at the scroll’s canister. She was becoming paranoid of even looking at it. She asked, “Will that stop the meteor? I mean, if we get it back in the cave, will that make the meteor go away?”

    Mahkah chuckled. He answered, “You’re talking in your little naïve girl voice again.” He paused, looked down at the scroll and said very quickly, “I have no way of knowing if that will do it or not.”

    Ty was shaking his head slowly, angry for a couple good reasons. First, he knew nothing of what they were talking about. And secondly, he was angry at being forced to play the cat and mouse with the black Taurus.

    “I don’t think the thing is beautiful at all,” Laura frowned. “It’s evil, causing very bad things to happen.”

    “But at first you thought it was a magnificent work of art!” Mahkah insisted. “All those pretty graphics, its perfect form, its unique metal container. You thought it was magic!”

    Black magic,” Ty said. “A guy doesn’t have to be a shaman to know there’s evil in the world.”

    “Indeed,” nodded Mahkah. “You are exactly correct. Evil is as evil does, to twist an old term. There are bad things on this Earth, but this scroll’s very purpose was to bring an end to that evil each time it grows out of control. To refresh mankind, to return us to an age when we’re all the proverbial babes in the woods. And there is no gentle way to do that.”

    They drove on in silence, Laura and Ty thinking about what Mahkah had said. Laura had stopped herself from trying to explain to Ty about the scroll’s originators. She thought that job would be much better left to Mahkah and his eloquent manner of speaking. She had decided that, even though she had a high level of formal education, that Mahkah was much smarter, more worldly. He had a grasp of reality unlike anyone she had ever met, an entirely different perception of the world. And she hungered to know more of what he knew.

    And she also wanted to know more about Ty. His reaction a few minutes before that made Mahkah laugh so hard gave her another little tweak in her stomach. She loved to laugh, but the nature of her occupation and status at the university prevented her from truly enjoying herself most often. She liked being in the seat next to Ty. She loved his calm, low voice. His reassuring smile. She was surprised to feel that she’d known him for a very long time, although it had only been a day.

    They passed Collinsville, Belleville, then Smithton and on toward Valmeyer.

    Going through the towns, especially when sitting at stop lights, Ty kept glimpsing a black Taurus well back behind them. But he was sure it was a Taurus, and he was also sure its driver had professional training in tailing someone. The guy was good. Too good to be an amateur.

    * * * * *
    “So tell us, Doctor Platt,” President Parker started their meeting with the NASA scientist, “what is the chance PK is going to hit us?”

    A portable table about six feet square was covered in papers Platt had spread out before the group of men. Diagrams, graphic representations with computer software models of the meteor’s anticipated trajectory, and several enlarged pictures taken by the Hubbell telescope lay before them in disarray.

    “Well, sirs,” Platt started, “NASA has done its best to determine the path of PK.” He paused, looking for the largest piece of paper in the stack. He was obviously uncomfortable. Even hard-assed Brunowski felt sorry for the guy.

    Platt rifled through the papers, then pulled out the largest sheet, about three by two feet, with only a few lines on it. When he found it, he audibly sighed, as if he was afraid he’d left it on his desk.

    “Here is the best calculation we have, gentlemen,” he said, stretching the large sheet out in front of everyone. He stood there, waiting while each man nosed in around the table. The diagram was quite simple; One large circle representing Earth, several lines a few inches apart, and at the opposite end of the lines, a smaller circle, apparently representing the meteor.

    “So,” Brunowski said in his direct voice, “you tell us what all these lines and circles mean. I’m not a scientist, and I can’t read this ****.”

    Platt became even more flustered, grabbed the sheet of paper on one corner and traced a blue colored line with his fingertip.

    “This blue line, here, is our original calculation,” the scientist explained. Then he pointed to another line, a red one.

    Platt continued, “And this line is our most recent computer model. As the meteor gets closer, we’ll be able to more accurately predict its exact, and I do mean exact, course.”

    The men looked at the blue line. It passed about two inches from the large circle depicting Earth. Then they all looked at the red line.

    The red line intersected the large circle. Its dead-center.

    The President asked in a grim voice, “Are you telling us we’re going to get hit?”

    “Um, er,” Platt stumbled. “Yes.”

    The men exchanged glances, then all looked at the President for comment.

    Parker turned and walked back behind his desk, the same one that had been used by many important men before him. He was sure none of them had faced bad news of such importance. He was now, for the first time, regretful he’d agreed to step in to this position behind his assassinated president, Joe Morris.

    The room was silent. All eyes were upon Parker, waiting for his reaction.

    “Gentlemen,” he said, “we will not disclose this information. Everything we’ve discussed here will stay in this room. There is enough panic already, without us adding to it.”

    Platt stuttered disagreement, “Bu-but sir, people need to know!”

    The President stared at Dr. Platt with the intensity to burn right through the scientist. In a low, hostile voice Parker insisted, “No. They do not. At least, not until the last few minutes before it arrives. There is already worldwide looting and crime, simply based on a remote possibility that we’re in its path. Can you imagine what the panic would escalate to if we threw fuel on that fire by confirming PK is going to hit us?”

    Platt looked down at his shoes. He was sweaty and pale. He could feel his shirt completely soaked inside his sport coat that was too small for his body. Feeling sorry for himself, he walked over to a chair and sat down, still looking down at the floor. He didn’t know what fainting felt like, but thought perhaps he was going to find out.

    Frank Brunowski was the first to break the awkward silence that followed. In his gruff voice, he said, “Men, I don’t have a dog in this fight. It really doesn’t matter what I think because if the meteor hits, we’re probably all dead anyway.” He looked at each of the men around the room while he formed his last sentence carefully.

    “Betsy and I've never had any kids,” he said slowly. “But I recommend each of you go home and spend some quality time with yours.”

    The President nodded agreement, as did almost everyone else in the room.

    Doctor Platt was listening intently on their conversation, hesitant to say anything at all. But he decided to.

    “Umm,” he started quietly. All eyes in the room turned to look at him. Platt said, “The scientific community pretty much agrees that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteor.”

    “And do they know how big it was?” Fleming asked, joining the discussion. He’d been silent since Platt had started speaking five minutes before.

    “Our best guess is about six miles across,” Platt said quietly.

    Brunowski chuckled and snorted. Then he said, “Well, hells bells, boys! There’s good news! The one bearing down on us is only half that size!”

    End Chapter 19
  19. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 20


    “Turn left up here,” Laura said, pointing at an intersection of a small country road where it crossed the little two-lane highway they were on. “I think this is the one we took.” She studied the surroundings for a moment, not positive of herself.

    “You sure?” Ty asked. He could see she was uncertain. “We don’t want to take the wrong road and end up cornered on a dead end with this Taurus behind us.”

    “I’m pretty sure,” Laura nodded, glancing at Ty and feeling guilty she hadn’t paid more attention when she and her students were here.

    “Take it,” Mahkah directed. “and trust her instincts. I haven’t seen the Taurus behind us for the last several miles.”

    “Me either,” Ty said, glancing in his mirror again. “Maybe we lost the *******s.”

    “Perhaps,” Mahkah said with a nod, “and for that reason we don’t want to dilly-dally here.”

    Ty made a left on to the country road, whipping the Jeep through the turn at a speed that defied gravity. The Cherokee leaned hard, startling Laura.

    “Hey! Don’t wreck us!” she exclaimed, looking at the ditch uncomfortably close to her side of the vehicle as they straightened out from the turn.

    Ty smiled, knowing the Jeep’s capabilities. “Don’t worry, just making sure you’re awake.”

    Mahkah chuckled, “I didn’t bring a change of underwear along today…”

    Laura looked at Ty’s big grin and realizing he’d known exactly what he was doing.

    She relaxed as they drove down the road, seeing landmarks she recognized. An old red barn on the right, cows in a field just past it. They passed a road sign that said ‘NO OUTLET’.

    “We’re good,” she said. “This is the road, I’m sure of it.”

    “Told you to trust her,” Mahkah said to Ty. “Still nobody behind us that I can see.”

    Ty glanced in the rear-view again and said, “Cool. And I had faith she’d get us here.” He looked at Laura and saw she was already looking his direction, apparently no longer worried about the road.

    “What.” he said, smiling. “You need to stop doing that. Makes me wonder what you’re thinking about.”

    “Never mind,” Laura replied, her eyes returning to the front, a smile also on her face. “You just concentrate on the road in front and behind us.”

    I am, I am,” he insisted. Then Ty looked in the mirror at Mahkah, winked and said, “Damn bossy women.”

    Mahkah laughed. Laura threw Ty a glance as if she was angry. But it was a playful frown.

    “I think we’re getting there,” Laura said, pointing to a turnaround up ahead of them. “Park up there on the right side.”

    Ty looked at the terrain around them. Mostly open, rolling pasture, a few trees sprinkled here and there with cows milling under the larger trees that provided some shade. Up ahead he could tell the land dropped off significantly because he couldn’t see a tree line or any more fields.

    As they pulled into the chat turnaround, Ty could see water. Lake Mississippi lay before them, he guessed it was about two miles across to the Missouri shoreline. He stopped the Jeep, but let the engine run.

    “This the place?” he asked Laura.

    “Definitely,” she nodded. “I parked in this same exact spot.” Turning around to look at Mahkah, who was already holding the metal canister, she said, “I’ll get out my dive gear, okay?”

    Mahkah nodded and said, “I’ll help you.” Then he looked at Ty. “I recommend you stand guard while she and I take this to the water’s edge. Keep an eye out for that Taurus.”

    Ty shut off the engine and looked in the mirror again. “It’s what I do,” he chuckled.

    All three climbed out of the Jeep, Ty hurrying back to open the hatch while Mahkah wrapped the canister in its blanket again.

    Squeezing his left arm up against his side to reassure himself the Colt auto was still in its shoulder holster, he put on the tactical vest and snapped its fasteners tight. He tapped the magazine compartments out of habit. Then he opened the black rifle case that held the big M1A semi-auto. He took it out quickly, freed a magazine from the vest and clicked it into the rifle. He chambered a round by pulling back on the charge handle, and as the bolt slammed shut, Laura jumped. She’d been watching his experienced hands on the rifle, amazed at the size of the shells that it used, but the sudden CLACK of the rifle as it was loaded caught her off-guard.

    “Those look like cannon shells!” she exclaimed. “Holy cow, they’re big!”

    “Big,” Ty smiled, “but not as big as the shells for that piece.” He pointed to the case that still held the Sendero. “That rifle is a Remington 700 in .300 Winchester magnum,” he said, quickly opening up the case with one hand as he leaned the M1A up against the bumper. When he opened the second case, he pointed to its shells all in a neat row within an elastic bandolier on the rifle’s black Kevlar stock.

    Ty slid one out briefly and showed it to Laura. He said, “Those boys go way fast and hit like a freight train.” He took the Sendero out also, laying it carefully on the carpet of the Jeep. He picked up the M1A and added, “But this rifle here allows me faster shots. 20 shots in a magazine, with respectable accuracy and range. But not as accurate as the Sendero, especially at extreme distances. It doesn’t have a scope, so my ability to make long shots, especially out here in these flat fields, will limit me. But if whoever was behind us brings a fight, if they’re inside 300 yards, it’ll be a hailstorm of lead on’em from this M1A heading their direction.”

    Mahkah had been patiently watching the road behind them Ty gave his first lesson to Laura.

    He cleared his throat and, “Ahem, you two. Let’s get moving.”

    Laura had been so fascinated listening to Ty and looking at the rifles she’d almost forgotten their task.

    “Oh, yes,” she said quickly. “Let’s get going.” She picked up the dive gear bag that held her wet suit, regulator, mask, fins, rope and snorkel.

    Ty picked up both rifles and slung them on each shoulder, then grabbed her scuba tank. Mahkah was holding the scroll’s canister that was still wrapped in its blanket.

    All three walked quickly toward the lake as Laura pointed to a small trail that could be seen going down a fairly steep embankment.

    “That’s the trail we want. It goes to the lake,” she said.

    Ty was looking for a suitable spot where he could cover them. The ridge would work in a pinch, but he was open on both sides and a flanking maneuver would leave him vulnerable.

    “I can carry that,” Mahkah said to Ty while pointing at the scuba tank. “You need to stay up here and watch for that Taurus. I have a feeling, you know,” as he tapped the side of his head. “And I’ve learned to listen to that little inner voice.”

    If Mahkah was nervous, he didn’t let on. The Indian was still smiling and lighthearted. Ty was all business, and Laura had an expression of worry written all over her face. But Ty could see she was focused and knew what needed to be done.

    “This is heavy,” Ty said to Mahkah. “Sure you can handle this down that embankment? Looks pretty steep to me.”

    Mahkah laughed. He nodded his head and replied, “Yes, young man, I can handle it. Give it here.”

    Ty sat the tank down, steadying it while Mahkah grabbed hold of the valve assembly at its top. He picked the tank up as if it were a feather and continued following Laura, not even missing a step.

    Laura was moving quickly away from Ty and he had to raise his voice for her to hear him. He shouted, “Be careful! And good luck!”

    “You do the same!” Laura shouted back.

    Mahkah turned around and gestured to Ty with a quick bounce of his head, nodding as if to say, “Do your job. And good luck to you, too.”

    Even though the shaman hadn’t said a word, Ty had a ticklish feeling in the front of his head that he’d actually heard Mahkah talk to him. He dismissed it with a shake of his head, then turned to look at the road.

    The Taurus was nowhere to be seen. Nothing was moving except a couple cows walking slowly to get under the shade of a big oak tree about two hundred yards away.

    The sun was beating down, nearly straight up in the cloudless sky. A slight breeze was coming over the ridge from the west. It smelled of muddy water and dead fish. He hadn’t noticed it before, but it was quite an awful stink.

    As Ty looked down the trail again, Mahkah and Laura had disappeared from sight.

    He suddenly felt very vulnerable. Standing out in the open, no cover, and very little of it available, he continued to look for the best position to set up his rifles and get prone. Just in case any visitors decided to drop in on his friends, he needed to be ready.

    * * * * *

    New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles were in utter chaos. Chicago, even though it was smaller than the other two cities, was in the worst shape from the crime and the anarchy in its streets. Chicago had recently banned all firearms in Cook county, and most of its law-abiding citizens had been unable to protect themselves against all the criminals who had retained their illegal weapons.

    Even with a virus running rampant in New York, its hospitals and police stations weren’t as overloaded as Chicago’s. The Windy City was on fire, as looters and gangs sacked its buildings and apartment complexes, they burnt it behind them. Many of the city’s first-responders, fire and police, had simply walked off the job and gone home to protect their families. Lakeshore drive, I-55 south and other main thoroughfares were choked with traffic jams. People couldn’t flee the city fast enough, although most had no idea where they were running.

    And smaller towns had their own problems. They were being flooded by hoards of people with little food and water, no shelter. Some that had been pulling campers had been victims of highwaymen, gangs that had set up roadblocks on smaller two-lane roads. After stealing whatever they could from those who were naïve enough to stop, the highway gangs would turn them loose, on foot, to continue their journey. And those who were let go were the fortunate ones.

    There were thousands of others throughout America laying dead on the side of the road, the women often raped and their men murdered.

    Refugees were flooding into towns south of Chicago faster than the city could handle them. Water supplies were running low, grocery and discount stores had been emptied hours before, and the smaller towns’ hospitals had nowhere to go with those demanding care.

    Somehow, the word was leaking out that the meteor was going to hit Earth.

    Despite the government’s best efforts to debunk and suppress the information, a few news stories had been released quoting respected scientists as saying PK was indeed coming directly at Earth. Two major news services had even gone so far as to say the government was intentionally covering up the reality to keep panic and mayhem at a minimum.

    Frank Brunowski and Steve Fleming, along with Fleming’s sister, Diane, were sitting on a park bench near the Vietnam War Memorial. Diane was the widow of Jay Springer, the late Chief of Staff.

    “Cover-up isn’t working, Steve,” Brunowski growled. “Parker might as well come clean and tell everyone what’s going on, give people a fighting chance.”

    “He can’t do that,” Diane interjected. “The whole world has gone nuts, and if the President goes public with it, we’re really finished.”

    Fleming agreed with his sister. He looked at both of them and said, “Diane’s right, Frank. Nothing to be gained. People are already fleeing the major cities. Even the smaller cities are being sacked. Honestly, I can’t imagine how it could get any worse.”

    Brunowski laughed sarcastically, “The Taliban invades D.C. with ten thousand troops?”

    Diane looked at him and said in a grim voice, “They don’t need to attack us. We’re doing a good job of taking ourselves down.”

    Brunowski nodded, “Now you sound like me!” Then he chuckled and said, “Quite true. Damn shame, but true.”

    “Changing the subject a bit,” Fleming said, “but do we have any idea who’s leaking the trajectory data on the meteor?”

    “None, whatsoever,” Brunowski said gruffly. “But I’m not entirely convinced that our current president wasn’t somehow involved with the Iranian conspiracy. Honestly, how do we know he’s not the one leaking this?

    Fleming shook his head and replied, “Can’t imagine how, unless there’s still bad cabbage inside the White House in his cabinet or someone else close to him. They’d have to be using private cell phones or some other means that we can’t track. I can tell you for certain that every fax, voice line and data line in that building is tapped. I see the logs every morning, and have since the assassination of Joe Morris.”

    Brunowski feigned surprise. He laughed and said, “Shame on you! Damn Big Brother is everywhere!”

    Fleming smiled, “Can’t get away from it. Ever since they signed the Patriot bill, we’re free to do just about anything we want. Including crawling up the ass of our own with a microscope.”

    “Needs to be done though,” Diane added. “Especially until you guys are sure if our new leader wasn’t involved in my late husband’s little coup attempt.”

    She frowned at both men and said, “It still pisses me off every time I think about that *******. Years and years sleeping in his bed and I had no idea he was really in bed with the damn Iranians!”

    “We’ve had that discussion,” Brunowski chuckled. “Don’t get your blood pressure up again, Diane.”

    She shook her head, turned and looked over to the Vietnam Wall and said, “If only those men whose names are engraved there had any idea what our nation’s leaders would become, they’d still be alive today. They’d have all been conscientious objectors and stayed home.”

    “Greed and corruption,” Fleming said, agreeing with his sister. “It’s what big government’s all about. And we’re part of it.”

    “But I refuse to be part of the problem,” Brunowski said. “That’s why I don’t play golf or go to lunches with congressmen. Someone has got to get a handle on this bull****.”

    Fleming added, “And if not us, then who?”

    “Exactly,” Diane agreed.

    End Chapter 20
  20. AKAMac

    AKAMac Member

    Feb 4, 2004
    Bay Area Cali
    I don't know why you're not getting posts, but I like it.
    A little too much on the metaphysical and lesser on the religious scope but a nice story line. I'm actually looking forward to the meeting of "K" and Ty in the next chapter or so.
    I also like the inclusion of the M1A as a civilian rifle in use as a defensive weapon. Don't stop now, your Hero still has full mags!
    Remember that many don't sign up or in as they read these threads. (I signed in to post my encouragement)
  21. Vityaz

    Vityaz Member

    Jul 20, 2007
    West Virginia
    Might be because you're posting fast enough to keep us from going into withdrawal.
  22. Srigs

    Srigs Member

    Feb 14, 2006
    Thanks for keeping the story going and posting here at THR. Keep the chapter coming. :D
  23. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    Web Site LiveChat Added

    Volusion's Live Chat has recently been added to www.gmillercompanies.com if anyone feels compelled to interactively chat with the author. :)

    Feel free to drop by anytime. I have it running in background when writing.

    I appreciate the feedback on the story so far. Admittedly, there is some metaphysical stuff involved, but it's there for a reason and firefights-a-plenty for the firearm enthusiasts coming up. Promise.

    REPOMAN Member

    Jul 17, 2007
    Ordered mine....... Thanks :D
  25. ShunZu

    ShunZu member

    Oct 8, 2007
    Near St. Louis, MO
    The Cataclysm Scroll - Chapter 21

    This -is- a long chapter. Will be posting it in pieces because it's got spoilers from the first novel in the series. Thanks to all of you who have posted feedback and ordered copies of the first. Sincerely. LiveChat on the website will be up tonight for the next few hours if you want to find out more about the 3rd... Giving my fingers and eyes a break for the evening.


    Ty had finally found a good spot in a small dip of an open pasture about 30 yards out from where Laura and Mahkah had gone down the hill. Grass about six inches high all around him, a small rise on both left and right to protect his sides, and flat ground out in front of him. He felt comfortable it was about as good of a hiding spot as any, out here in the open. He had the M1A resting on its bipod, a two-legged factory accessory his Dad had insisted on when he ordered it. Ty had argued that at over $250, it was unnecessarily expensive, because the one on the Sendero had only cost half that. But now, he was glad his father had wanted the very best. If a fire fight was coming his way, the bipod would definitely help in stabilizing the weapon during rapid fire.

    He hadn’t seen anything moving other than cows. Keeping vigilant watching the road for the Taurus, he became increasingly hopeful that he’d given them the slip when making that fast turn off the hard road.

    Down at the lake’s edge, Laura had finished attaching her regulator to the scuba tank. When she’d opened the pressure valve, her gauge showed just a notch over 1,000 pounds of pressure. She donned her wet suit, weight belt, and stabilizer jacket while Mahkah checked to ensure none of the hoses were tangled as she carried her fins and mask to the water’s edge. Mahkah helped her along, although she hadn’t really needed any help. He could tell she’d done this before.

    Once she reached the water, Mahkah carefully unrolled the canister from the blanket, then tied the safety rope around her. Laura spit in her mask and wiped it around to help prevent the lens from fogging, and put it on. She stuck the regulator in her mouth and took a breath to make sure everything was working.

    Mahkah handed the canister to her and asked, “Sure you can handle this thing while you’re swimming?”

    She nodded quickly and said, “It was neutrally buoyant when I brought it up. It’ll be fine.”

    “Got enough air?” he asked.

    She nodded again and said, “Hope so!”

    Laura blew some air in her stabilizer jacket using the manual fill hose so she could float, rather than employ the auto-inflator, which would use her tank’s air and give her less to dive with. She pulled on the fins once she was afloat, since walking with the big frog-leg like flippers was nearly impossible in the thick, gooey mud on the shoreline. Mahkah fed out the rope to her as she paddled out onto the lake.

    Laura moved down to the location she guessed was close to where the cave had been, hoping it was directly under her. She was glad she’d made a mental note where the cave was when Katie and Josh had pulled her to shore.

    Swimming had been a bit difficult, holding the canister under one arm, trying to keep her balance upright as she treaded water over the cave. She put the air regulator in her mouth and took a shallow breath. It was working fine, but she had to conserve air anywhere she could.

    With her free hand, she held up the air hose on her stab jacket and pressed the button to let its air out so she could descend. It made a loud hissing sound, and just as she slipped below the dark, murky water, something splashed close behind her. At first, she thought it was a fish or turtle. Then about two seconds later, even with her ears slightly below the surface, she heard a loud boom way off in the distance.

    Damn!” Korchenko cussed aloud. He’d been forced to take a hurried shot, out of breath from his long run. But through his scope, he’d seen glimpses of some metallic object the diver was carrying as it peeked in and out of the waves. He was positive this was the thing he had accepted the contract to recover.

    But the diver had gone down just as he was setting up the Dragunov.

    Govno!” he cussed to himself in Russian. Then he said it aloud, in English, “****!

    He was still breathing hard after his long, stealthy run down a small creek bed staying low to conceal his movement. A half-run, half-slide down the steep hill approaching the water’s edge had drained his body of air.

    He wasn’t in the top notch shape he’d been years ago when he was in Afghanistan fighting the Mujahideen. Damn American fast food.

    He’d hung back as the small country road got more narrow, and when he saw the NO OUTLET sign, he had stopped entirely. He’d watched the top of the Jeep almost disappear from sight, but his luck held. It had slowed, then stopped. He had seen only one person moving around behind the Jeep who was tall enough to stick out over the top of the pasture grass. He figured it a safe assumption the two other people were with him, as well as the object he was after. He had estimated them to be almost a mile down the road, and guessed they had arrived at their destination.

    Grabbing the Dragunov from the back seat, he’d hurried, moving straight west down a creek bed without having any idea where he was running.

    Then he’d seen the big lake. Looking down the steep embankment, there was nothing but shoreline and a wide span of water. He’d looked to the south but couldn’t see anyone because they were on the far side of all that damn pasture. So, he’d made the decision to get down near the water’s edge, assuming whatever business they had here would involve the lake. He was silently hoping they were going to be in a boat. That would be child’s play for his sniper skills and the Dragunov.

    But no such luck. He’d found the diver already in the water, carrying that metal thing. Breathing hard from the run, Korchenko was worried he was going to pull the shot wide. And he had, but out of necessity.

    Subconsciously, he was worried about hitting the metal object, so he’d shot to the opposite side of the diver, hoping to put the bullet on the rear of the diver’s head well-away from the metal thing. But now he cursed himself for over-compensating. There wasn’t as much wind pushing in off the lake as he had estimated. But he told himself that it was a tremendously long shot, at least 1,000 meters. Anyone could have missed. “Most would have,” he rationalized in his head.

    Ty was already moving toward the sound of the shot, using what cover he could find out in the pasture. Even though land looks flat when one is gazing across large fields, it still has small dips and rolls that had frustrated him many times when coyotes had used them against him. Trying to keep a scope on a running coyote as it scurried across a field using those dips and valleys, sometimes all he’d see were glimpses of the top of a head and its ears.

    Now, Ty was using these small field rolls to hide as much of his body as possible. Carrying both heavy rifles, the Sendero and the M1A, combined with the weight of the ammo in his vest, he realized he was moving too slowly if the sniper was targeting him. Running low to minimize his profile, he’d covered a couple hundred yards, figuring it was safe for a short time. The shot had sounded like it echoed across water, so the shooter must have been near the lake.

    All rifles make their own unique sound, and Ty had already guessed the shot had come from a Russian 7.62 X 54mm round. He’d had them fired at him many times. But he needed to know what he was up against. Were there multiple shooters with multiple rifles? A single shooter? And several Russian rifles could shoot that round; A Mosin-Nagant from World War II used it, as well as several others, including the Dragunov.

    Ty found a natural dip in the field and dove down in to it, resting a moment to catch his breath and peer over the top of the field’s grass. He was hoping to see movement.

    He waited for a couple minutes, his mind racing wanting to know if Laura and Mahkah were okay, who was this out in front of him, and was it them that had been in the black Taurus? His gut was tense, worried the shot had killed one of his friends.

    Korchenko was torn with indecision. Where was Massey? Had he been the scuba diver? Or was he providing cover for the diver? If he was protecting the diver, then he was somewhere up on top most likely, using cover and concealment with that damned magnum that had almost killed him a month ago. Korchenko knew that if he made the wrong decision here, Massey would win.

    He decided to work his way back up the creek bed, to seek a little higher ground and get away from this open river bank he was on. The only thing he knew for certain right now was that he was a sitting duck. He stood up, brushed off the stinky mud from his front the best he could, and cussed the black goo as it smeared all over the front of his shirt. He started moving up the low area of the creek bed.

    On top, Ty had set up the Sendero, popped the Butler Creek scope covers open, and was scanning left and right through the Leupold scope looking… looking for anything out of the ordinary. He’d made the decision to wait another minute or two here, then move forward again with the ultimate goal of making the cover of a large oak tree about fifty yards in front of him. He’d wanted to get to it during his first run, but this little hidey hole he’d found offered some protection, and allowed him to scan the tree before he went running up to it. For all he knew, the shooter could have moved up behind it.

    Mahkah was on the shoreline holding the rope, worried the shot he’d heard had hit Laura. But the rope was still going out slowly, so he was hoping for the best; That she’d submerged before the shot got to her. As soon as the shot had been fired, he’d backed up from the water’s edge and taken a seat on a piece of drift wood that was down behind a small outcrop of mud. It afforded him a little comfort that most, if not all, of his body was hidden behind that muddy mound.

    In the water, Laura’s mind was torn between worrying about Ty, Mahkah, and finding the cave. She’d descended about twenty feet or so, taking very shallow breaths to conserve the air in her tank. Visibility was no better now than it had been when she’d found the scroll lodged in the rock.

    But God, or dumb luck, or her spirit guides, or perhaps all of them together, were with her. With her dive light providing very little useful illumination through the muddy water, she saw it. The cave! She’d dropped down nearly on top of the dark hole that emerged out of the darkness. She glided down in to the gaping hole that had once been an entrance for mushroom growers. She was elated she’d been able to find it again, hopefully, with a minimum consumption of her available air left in the tank.

    Now to find the hole where she had found the canister.
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