Entry 45 – Mirage
The next day, the preparations were nearly complete and everything was going according to plan. Our scout drones reported the Crocodiles not moving anywhere (if they decided to harass our convoy or ransack the base in our absence, we’d be in trouble) and the local law enforcement had no ambitions to impede us in any way as interfering in corporate business tended to be a poor life choice around here (or anywhere for that matter).
At last we reached the point where everything was loaded, all machines fueled up and ready to go and the crews inside their metal steeds awaiting the order to depart. All there was left to do was wait for the final briefing with Ferguson and Murdoch himself, both connecting to a video conference – Ferguson still in Algiers and Murdoch back in Chicago.
I couldn’t hide my disappointment. Given the importance of the mission, I somehow expected both to be present in person. What also surprised me having Doctor Haswell on the call, his white fuzzy hair and beard constantly drawing my attention. Shortly after the connection was established, Gail returned from a quick sweep around – there were no bugs, accidental witnesses or peeping toms hiding in the bushes. It was safe to talk freely.
Murdoch’s face was expressionless and he didn’t do much talking except for the opening statement.
“Gail, Samuel. Thank you for your service so far. You’ve performed admirably under the circumstances and the setbacks you’ve suffered were...” he made a short pause, “not your fault. Please know that I do not blame you for any losses of life or equipment.”
He took a sip from a glass of water, clearly considering what else to say. My impression was that he wanted us to go in blind in the first place but in the end, he decided not to for whatever reason.
“It seems we have attracted the attention of... something. Something we do not quite understand. Something that’s not entire happy with our actions. Now, you’ve been informed about the energy spikes – in some cases, you yourselves learned more than we have over the last couple of months. Your mission is to proceed to the coordinates and protect the science team led by Dr. Az’dule while they conduct their research.”
With that, he reclined in his chair.
“I won’t lie to you,” he continued.
That’s what all liars say, I immediately thought. Gail sitting next to me squeezed my hand below the camera’s line of sight in a sign of trust. I barely suppressed a smirk – we sometimes acted like a high school couple. My amusement passed rather quickly upon hearing Murdoch’s next words as his tone turned almost apologetic.
“This is not what I wanted. By taking action this way, we have opened a Pandora’s Box and attracted the attention of a lot of curious and powerful people. Had we stayed in the shadows, things would have been much easier. Unfortunately, we have to play with the cards we’ve been dealt. I fully expect you, both of you, to be capable enough to uncover any clues or pieces of information before anyone is able to mount their own operation.”
I nodded, mostly to myself.
“Any results, changes or... occurrences are to be reported to me and Miss Ferguson immediately. The scientists know what to do and they are under orders to do the same. We don’t quite know what we are dealing here. Doctor Haswell, please take it from here and tell us of your newest findings.”
In the thirty minutes that followed, we learned practically nothing new. Doctor Haswell had a strong tendency to digress and get lost in trivialities so while getting an in-depth analysis of a certain pattern of energy waves certainly proved him to be an expert in the field (perhaps THE expert), it did very little for us since none of us understood what the hell he was talking about. The answers to the truly pressing questions clearly eluded him as much as they did us and later we’d both agree he could have summed up the whole lecture into ‘go there and see what happens.’
In the end, Gail was the one to return to the topic of alternate realities and what we might expect out there.
“Doctor, have you encountered something in your research that could be relevant to our issue?”
“Well,” he responded, scratching his beard nervously, “there is some scary stuff out there, that’s for sure. For example... remember how I explained about the reality identifiers consisting of strings of numbers tied to life itself? Well... there’s a reality where the identification value is... ‘1’ – just that, number ‘1’ and nothing else. The observation was unsuccessful of course, it seemed like there were no laws of physics in there, none that we could determine anyway. And yet... the colleague monitoring the screens swore he saw something move in the darkness. It wasn’t possible, it made no sense given the absence of photons... but he swore nevertheless. Afterwards, we saw it too, like a shadow at the edge of your vision. But nothing would show on any recordings and we thought it best to shut down this particular project afterwards.”
Haswell was right, that was scary. There’s this old quote about staring back into you – perhaps the reality took it a little too literally. We left the tent with uneasy thoughts about all-devouring darkness. Several hours later, we were already on our way, a long line of trucks and armor stretching across a desert road north and by late afternoon, the recon teams already reported that a great pyramid near Al Dabbah was already visible on the horizon.
There was just one problem with that. There’s no great pyramid near Al Dabbah.