WARNING: May Contain Werewolves.
A pyramid predating all known cultures appears without warning. Its discovery throws into question everything we know about the origins of mankind.
Inside lies incredible technology, proof of a culture far more advanced than our own. Something dark lurks within, eager to resume a war as old as mankind. When it is unleashed it heralds the end of our species’ reign.
A plague of werewolves spreads across the world. A sunspot larger than anything in recorded history begins to grow. Yet both pale in comparison to the true threat, the evil the werewolves were created to fight.
“It’s like Indiana Jones went through the Stargate and ended up in Aliens versus Predator.” – One of the author’s totally biased friends.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
“How the hell did we end up in Peru? And not even the good part, down in Lima where the locals think were marines,” Jordan asked, shading his eyes from the sun’s relentless glare as he peered over the helicopter’s console at the wide valley below. It was flanked by high peaks, some of the tallest in the Andes. At eleven thousand feet, it was a place none of the locals ever came willingly.
“Is shit,” Yuri agreed, the Russian’s face hidden behind a large pair of aviator glasses and a thick black goatee. The wiry pilot eased the yoke, tilting the copter forward to afford a better view of the scrubby hillsides. “Should be in jungle, is pretty there. Birds. I like birds.”
Why were they here? The team had been put together with incredible haste, dispatched from a dozen different countries to the Peruvian city of Cajamarca where they’d been given one day to acclimate to each other. They’d been dispatched here, given four old Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters—the type that had been mothballed back in the 1980s after serving since the Vietnam War.
“Commander, are you seeing this?” A female voice crackled over the com. It was either Savinsky or Jewel, but having just met them Jordan couldn’t readily identify which was speaking.
A massive chunk of stone broke loose from the southern face of one of the mountains, plummeting to the valley floor with a crash so loud he could hear it over the rotors.
“Pretty tough to miss,” Jordan replied, studying the cloud of dust curling skyward. A smaller piece broke loose from a neighboring peak. Boulders began jouncing all over the place, bucking about like Mexican jumping beans. “Carter, this place isn’t seismically active, is it?”
“Not even slightly,” Carter’s nasally voice echoed back over the com. “We’re nowhere near a fault line.”
“Holy shit,” Another voice broke onto the com. That one was definitely Jewel.
A black spike bored out of the earth like the tip of some gigantic drill. It was nearly as large as the peaks surrounding it, a jet-black pyramid unlike anything he’d ever seen. Jordan’s eyes widened as the structure approached. “Pull up, pull up.”
Yuri yanked back on the stick, guiding the Apache up and away from the approaching structure. Savinsky wasn’t so lucky. Evidently she’d been distracted or maybe just surprised by the structure’s momentum. The pyramid slammed into the Apache, unleashing a fireball of flaming wreckage as it continued its ascent.
“Get clear,” Jordan roared. The other three copters veered safely away, hovering around the strange pyramid like angry wasps. Up and up it went, until it was towered over their comparatively tiny copters. He turned to Yuri, “What’s our current elevation?”
“Nine hundred seventy-five feet above valley floor,” Yuri said, jaw still hanging open as he gaped at the pyramid. “Is taller, so structure eleven hundred feet. Give or take.”
The pyramid finally stopped moving, its jet-black slopes covered in patches of dark soil. Jordan had a million questions. How old was it? Who’d built it? Most troubling, how had their employer known it was going to appear? That they’d been dispatched to such a remote location at the precise moment this thing had appeared was no accident.
“Carter, are you getting any readings from that thing?” he asked, tightening his sunglasses. The structure seemed to drink in the light around it, reflecting none of the midday glare.
“Nothing,” Carter’s voice crackled back. “And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. It’s not sending back radar. It just absorbs the ping. It’s eating the signal somehow. Never seen anything like it.”
Something like a heat shimmer appeared around the structure. At first Jordan wasn’t sure what he was seeing, but eventually his eyes widened. The entire thing was vibrating. The dirt clinging to the sides slid off, like butter on Teflon, falling away until the structure was as pristine as it was on the day it was built, whenever that was. Great piles accumulated around the base of the structure. They surrounded the entire thing except one place where the dirt was conspicuously absent.
“Carter, check out the center of the western face. What do you make of it?”
“There’s definitely something strange there, sir,” Carter said, a rare note of uncertainty in his voice. “There’s an area in the exact center of the wall that’s devoid of debris. If you use magnification, you can see that there are poplar trees scattered all about, but their branches stop at the edge of the clearing as if they were sheared through with a really sharp plane. I don’t know what to make of it.”
“All units, make your approach. Prepare for field recon,” Jordan ordered, filling his voice with authority and confidence he didn’t feel. What the hell had they been sent into?
Yuri eased back on the yoke, and the whirring of the rotors slowed. The craft descended smoothly, drifting to the edge of the ring of dirt now surrounding the pyramid. The copter set down just beyond, between a still-standing poplar tree and a cluster of boulders.
A hawk wheeled overhead, screeching a challenge as the whir of the rotors finally died. Jordan pushed open the canopy over the craft’s rear seat. Intended more for combat than transport, it was just large enough to hold two people. An intimidating machine gun had been bolted under each stubby little wing, along with a boxy missile launcher on the right. Hardly the sort of hardware you’d send to scout unless you were expecting serious trouble.
Jordan slid from the cockpit, dropping to the dry earth with a puff of dust. The high desert made his eyes water beneath his sunglasses even though the wind was bitterly cold at this elevation. He withdrew his pack from the boot, the harness jingling as he buckled it at his waist and chest. The black nylon was compact enough to not restrict movement and still contain the basic supplies they might need on such an op.
“We’re going in hot. No sense in taking chances,” he said into the sub-dermal microphone that Mohn Corp. had so graciously provided. It was state of the art, picking up words people right next to him would miss. Jordan buckled his side arm, an M-411 smart pistol, into place. The weapon fed targeting data to his goggles, making combat nearly as easy as your average video game.
“Is very strange,” Yuri said, dropping to the dirt beside Jordan. His gaze was fixed on the pyramid, or more specifically, the clear space in front of the wall some fifty yards from where they’d set down. He could tell the break in debris was clearly something the builders had intended, because it lay directly outside a gap in the structure. It was as if a square section had been cut away, allowing visitors to enter a tunnel that led inside.
“Carter, what can you tell me?” Jordan said, turning toward the third helicopter as the short, sandy-haired tech fell awkwardly to the ground. He got up quickly, dusting off his pants and trying to act like he wasn’t as clumsy as they all knew him to be.
The tech trotted over, taking a sip of water from the blue hose leading into his pack. “I ran a full scan on the valley. We use sonar imaging to build maps, which the satellites confirm. Only there’s gaps in my model, gaps caused by that thing. It’s eating the signal, sir. That shouldn’t be possible.”
“Yeah, you mentioned that in the air. What else can you tell me?”
“Not much,” Carter admitted, turning to face the structure. He withdrew a bulky black box from his belt and aimed it at the tunnel. It beeped and hummed for several seconds before Carter turned back to face him. “Sir, this is damn odd. That tunnel is emitting ELF.”
“Ee el eff?” Jordan asked. Carter would speak in nothing but obscure abbreviations and acronyms if allowed to do so.
“Extremely low frequency waves, sir. A very special type of signal we used back in World War Two to transmit codes. It’s slower than most signals, so you don’t see it much today,” Carter explained, adjusting his goggles as he watched the pyramid. “They’re also given off by power plants. Nuclear power plants for the most part. It’s possible there’s a power source inside, or maybe whoever built this place is using them for communication. No way to know without checking it out, sir.”
“Then that’s exactly what we’ll do. Yuri, take Carter down that tunnel to see if you can find a way inside. If there isn’t one, then make it. No chances. If you run into anything, topside. If you have a question you can’t answer, topside. Back in ten minutes,” he ordered. Jordan could have sent a larger team, but with Savinsky’s team gone there were only six of them and he didn’t want to risk any more personnel than he had to—one tech and one experienced soldier to keep him alive.
Yuri fished his M4 rifle from the cockpit. The smooth bored weapon menacing as he propped the barrel up over his shoulder. The weapon was standard issue, but in the hands of a crack shot like Yuri, it could devastate a battlefield.
The Russian trotted toward the pyramid, bringing the stock of his rifle to his shoulder as he scanned the pregnant darkness that so neatly blended with the structure’s dark surface. Carter trotted a little ways behind, replacing his bulky black box with a smaller green gizmo. Jordan was good with technology, but he had no idea what either device did. He doubted anyone other than Carter could tell him. The tech was always tinkering, and the gadgets were both things he’d cobbled together in his spare time.
The pair disappeared into the darkness, though Jordan could still make out their shapes. They stopped perhaps ten feet into the strange tunnel, a perfect square that could have been bored with a laser. Jordan shaded his eyes, watching as Yuri leaned a shoulder into the massive stone door and shoved. To the Russian’s apparent surprise, it gave easily, spilling him to the ground as the door slid soundlessly open. Damn. That kind of engineering could barely be accomplished today. How many tons did that door weigh?
Jordan began to pace, his right hand settling on the grip of his pistol. Ten minutes. Such a short span of time, but it crept by. What was happening inside? Something echoed from within. Gunshots. He resisted the urge to order another pair inside, instead gesturing at both sides of the entrance. The squad moved to flank it, each soldier leveling an M4 at the opening. Long seconds passed.
At nine minutes, sixteen seconds they heard the slaps of booted feet on stone as something approached. Yuri’s form emerged first, bent low, arms pumping as he hauled ass back into the sunlight. There was no sign of his rifle. Carter’s form trailed behind, the lanky tech clutching his side as if he had a cramp. Only it wasn’t a cramp. His black uniform was soaked with blood, and his face was ashen as he limped forward.
“Jewel, get the medical kit,” Jordan bellowed, jerking the stock of his rifle to his shoulder as he scanned the darkness. The rest of the squad did the same, including Jewel. The weapon suited the tiny blond, despite the fact that it was nearly as large as she was. She lowered it reluctantly, trotting back toward the helicopter. She was the closest they had to a medic.
Carter stumbled, sprawling to the ground just past the thick shadow provided by the tunnel. Yuri didn’t even stop to help. What the hell had spooked him so badly he didn’t stop to help a wounded squad mate?
A third figure moved in the darkness. It was tall. Too tall. Maybe seven or eight feet, if the glittering amber eyes served as indicators. Then it stepped into the thinner shadow near the end of the tunnel, providing Jordan with far more detail than he’d ever wanted to see.
The creature looked like some sort of dark furred Egyptian god, with a head that clearly belonged on a wolf. Sharp white fangs bared over black gums, and the long claws on one massive hand still dripped blood—Carter’s blood. The creature wore some sort of golden necklace, a torque, Jordan thought it was called. Its clothing was cut from shimmering white cloth, something like a Roman toga.
“End that thing,” Jordan roared, aligning the crosshairs in his goggles with the thing’s chest. He squeezed off three rounds, the gun bucking in his hands as it belched gouts of flame. Echoing fire came from all around him as the squad reacted instantly, every last member a veteran of one war or another.
The thing didn’t move. In one moment, it was standing in the center of the corridor. In the next, it stood next to Carter. The rounds they’d fired found nothing but stone, ricocheting down the tunnel. The beast knelt, savaging the back of Carter’s neck with those wicked teeth.
Jordan adjusted his aim, firing again. So did the others. This time the thing jerked backward, raising a hand to its shoulder. Its amber gaze touched Jordan’s for an instant; then the beast disappeared.
“Behind us,” Jewel roared. Jordan spun to see her drop the med kit. She jerked her rifle up, but it was too late. The beast raked its claws across her throat, showering the dusty earth with her blood.
“No,” Jordan roared, sprinting toward the downed soldier as he squeezed off several rounds. None hit, but they did draw the beast’s attention. It blurred across the space between them, looming over Jordan like a linebacker over a toddler. Its claws descended, death’s embrace plummeting toward Jordan’s face with impossible speed. Jordan dropped to his back, bringing his rifle into alignment with the thing’s midsection. He didn’t take time to aim, just squeezed the trigger.
The beast stumbled backward under a withering hail of fire, face twisting into an all-too-human expression of frustration. Then it simply vanished. Jordan scrambled to his feet, spinning around as he scanned for a target. Nothing. How did it move so swiftly? It defied reason. Yuri approached, offering Jordan a hand. The big Russian helped him to his feet.
“Is crazy. Not paid enough to fight fucking werewolves,” Yuri said, shaking his head. He was staring at Carter’s corpse. There was no way the tech had survived.
Jordan wanted to correct him. There was no such thing as werewolves. But he’d just seen one. How the hell was he going to explain this to Mohn? Maybe he wouldn’t have to. Perhaps this is exactly what they’d expected.
Chapter 1- A Bigger Bullet
Commander Jordan eyed the hangar thoughtfully. The silver dome was out of place, nicer than either of its neighbors. That didn’t fit Mohn’s low profile imperative, so who’d authorized this place? He’d never met the woman in charge of the Panama facility, though he’d seen her at a distance when he deployed to Cajamarca just a few weeks ago.
Taxis and buses flowed down the road behind him, ferrying passengers to one of the busiest airports in Central America. He slipped through the gap in the fence, walking briskly to the door near the south corner. Jordan withdrew his cell phone, speed dialing the Director. The phone clicked several times and then rang once before it was picked up. He recognized the commanding voice immediately.
“Have you arrived?”
“Yes, sir,” Jordan replied. Director Phillips was all protocol, and even though they weren’t officially military they wore the same trappings.
“Good. Review the weaponry and ensure that it will meet your needs,” the voice on the other end said. The words were clipped, efficient.
“With respect, sir, I don’t know what our needs are. That thing took everything we had to throw and kept on coming,” Jordan said. He didn’t want to be insubordinate, but command needed to know what they were facing.
“I realize that, Commander, but your own reports said that you hurt it. That was with more conventional ordnance. The weapons we’ve prepared should be considerably more effective,” the Director said.
Jordan watched traffic rumble by, so damn normal.
“Sir, we’re fighting a god-damned werewolf that crawled out of a pyramid with no right to exist. We don’t know what will be effective. I’ll take the added firepower, but what I really need is more men. That thing carved through my squad like a Thanksgiving turkey,” he said, trying unsuccessfully to keep the heat from his voice.
“That takes time, and you damned well know it,” the Director snapped. Jordan was shocked. He’d never heard the Director lose his composure before. “We’re working on replacements, but they’ve only had two weeks training. If I send them in now, I’m as good as pulling the trigger myself.”
“What about mercs, sir? There has to be an off-the-books option,” he offered. Mohn Corp. had ties with a number of black ops organizations that specialized in wet work.
“That could bring unwanted attention,” the Director said, sighing heavily. “I just got off a call with the Peruvian president. They want to know what the hell we’re doing up there and why we’re bringing in so much hardware. I can’t afford any more scrutiny, and that’s exactly what sending in cowboy mercs will do. You’re just going to have to make do with the personnel you have. Review the weapons and get your ass back to Peru.”
“Yes, si—“ Jordan began, but the phone beeped as the call ended.
He wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. Damn, this place was hot. Such a contrast to the frigid Andes. He resisted the urge to see if anyone was watching, and instead pounded the hangar’s door three times with his fist. The hollow booms were swallowed by the road noise, but the door opened almost immediately. A hard-eyed man in full Kevlar opened the door. He carried an unfamiliar rifle, front hand resting on the underside of the barrel, with the other over the trigger guard. In one fluid motion he could snap it to his shoulder to fire. His face screamed drill sergeant, though he bore no insignia except Mohn’s standard green triangle on his shoulder. The guy could have been R. Lee Ermey’s shorter, angrier brother.
“Jordan?” he barked, leathery face set in what Jordan guessed must have been a permanent scowl. “Get your ass inside. This isn’t the goddamn shopping mall.”
He opened the door just wide enough for Jordan to slip through, slamming it behind them the instant they were clear. The place was pitch black except for a pair of stand lamps overlooking narrow tables lined with weapons. Behind them stood a skinny, nerdy-looking guy with a thick mustache and small tinted glasses. He wore a flannel shirt under a polyester vest, not exactly standard-issue gear. The guy reminded him of Carter, summoning a memory of the dead tech’s lifeless eyes. Jordan had seen a lot in his time, but that memory was one of the worst.
“You’re here to get some real firepower,” Sarge said. A made-up name helped because it was the only one Jordan was likely to get. Mohn ops were anonymous. You never knew more than you had to about the people you were working with.
Sarge walked over to the tables, gesturing at one of the rifles. “Your last op used the M4, right?”
“Yeah. Lacked stopping power though,” Jordan replied, crossing to stand next to the table.
“The M4 is great,” the skinny guy broke in. Jordan decided to call him Lester, after a character from a video game he’d played back in the 90s. “Um, it’s one of the most ubiquitous military firearms on the modern battlefield. Definitely the most familiar rifle to your mercs…er…soldiers.”
“A lot of operatives,” Sarge corrected. “Use the Russkies’ AK. Cheaper than the M4.”
“Yeah, uh, operatives. Anyway, the AK’s great too, but I like the M4, and that’s what we’ve got here, a typical M4,” Lester said, patting the stock lovingly. “The locking bolt gives a more stable ballistic chamber and, thus, a more accurate shot than an AK.” He picked up the rifle, thumbing the switch near the trigger to full-auto. “Even fully automatic, your first three or four shots are dead on.”
“Yeah, and that’s why we love it,” Jordan agreed. He knew the rifle’s internals intimately. “But, like I said, it didn’t have enough stopping power. The 5.56 round just isn’t enough.” He picked up a long brass bullet from the table to illustrate.
“Yeah, I’m not surprised,” Lester said, grin spreading. “The round is only twenty-two caliber, even if it is high velocity. You’ll core soft targets, but it doesn’t do squat against anything with armor. Even a car windshield will stop a round. The bullet just punches through your target without much expansion. That’s why it lacks the stopping power you’re after.”
Jordan folded his arms. “I didn’t come here to talk about what didn’t work. I came here to get something that will. If we’re going to take down my target, I’m going to need…”
“…A bigger bullet,” Sarge and Lester finished in unison.
“Not just any bigger bullet. Something special I invented,” Lester said. Jordan hadn’t thought the kid could get anymore perky, but somehow he did. He patted a sleek black rifle a little larger than the M4. “I modified the M4 to fire a thirty-caliber Blackout AAC. You keep the same shell base, thus same bolt carrier group, magazine, etc. All that is needed is a barrel and chamber change, and violà: stopping power and penetration of a heavier bullet without changing the familiarity of your weapon. I call it the XM8.”
“That might give us the edge we need. How many can I have, and when will they be ready?” Jordan asked.
“We have a demonstration ready and—”
“That’s not necessary. You’ve explained how the gun and the round work. This is what I need. Can I leave here with a case? I need to get back on-site for my op,” Jordan replied, cutting Lester off. The kid clearly wanted to say more but gave a heavy sigh instead.
“All right. We can skip the demo. I guess the pig would appreciate that, if no one else,” Lester said, offering Jordan the XM8. “You can take this one with you now. I’ve got another crate of eight I can have loaded on your departing flight. Was there anything else you needed?”
“Yeah, some luck,” Jordan replied, accepting the rifle. He set it gently in the rectangular case, settling the weapon into the foam before snapping the case shut. “Thanks, guys. These weapons are going to save lives.”
Jordan hoped that was true. He’d never seen anything like the monster in Peru. M4s hadn’t even slowed it down, though they had driven the creature off. That meant it feared pain and could probably be killed through conventional means. Guess Jordan was about to find out, assuming the thing came back to the pyramid. He walked back to the door, case in hand.
Jordan withdrew his smartphone and called the Director. “It’s done.”
Chapter 2- Prehistoric Aliens my Ass
2,600 BCE. Blair wrote the words out laboriously, fingers cramping around the tiny nub of chalk. He underlined the date, turning to face rows of disengaged freshmen. Santa Rosa JC’s finest. The back rows shot clandestine gazes at smartphones under their desks, either not knowing or not caring that Blair could see. If today’s lesson didn’t grab them, they’d be the ones who dropped.
“Why is that year significant?” He asked, pausing for a full three seconds as he scanned the room. Curiosity lurked in a few corners, but no one ventured a hand.
“That’s the approximate date the Great Pyramid of Giza was built,” Blair said, taking a step toward the front row. He began to pace. “You’ve seen it in movies. It’s the most well-known wonder of the ancient world, a masterpiece that has endured for millennia. It’s visible from space, forty-five stories tall, and has fascinated every culture from ancient Greece through the United States. Today you’re going to learn how and why Pharaoh Khufu built it.”
Several hands shot up, the most enthusiastic in the front row. It belonged to an Asian girl with long black hair and a pink backpack. Jesus, these kids were young.
“Samantha. You can call me Sam,” The girl said, all but bouncing in her seat. Probably her first semester. The boys were just as bad, worse if their voices cracked during questions. “You said it was built by a pharaoh, but how do we know that? I saw this show, and it said that the Pyramids were built by aliens. It makes sense. I mean, how did cave men move those giant stones? They would have needed, like, cranes and stuff.”
Every semester, it was the same. A misguided student, or six, parroted the drivel they’d read on Google or seen on Netflix. Not that he could blame them. If the Internet said it, it must be true, right?
“Was it the one with the guy’s hair that gets crazier every season? Looks like a bird that got on the wrong side of a hurricane,” Blair said, fanning his fingers out in parody of the host’s incredible hair.
“Yes,” She said, eyes widening as she straightened in her seat. “That’s the one. That guy is crazy, but like, brilliant, too.”
“Yeah. Here’s the problem with that show. It’s bullshit,” Blair said, crossing his arms. Had he just gotten chalk on his sleeve? Damn it. “We know who built the Pyramids. We know when. We even know how. That’s what—”
A cell phone went off, obnoxiously loud. He seriously doubted anyone else was using the Game of Thrones ringtone, which meant he’d just broken his own phone rule in class. He glanced at the desk drawer. If he answered it that would legitimize students doing the same for the whole semester. He ignored it.
“That’s what we’re going to discuss today. I promise by the end you’ll agree the only thing alien on that show is that guy’s hair,” he said, pausing for a few polite chuckles. The phone stopped. Thank God. “I’ll begin by passing out—”
There it went again, somehow more obnoxious. Snickers rippled through the class. He was losing them. “You know what, guys? I don’t know about you but I could use some coffee. Let’s take a fifteen-minute break. Go grab a Starbucks and get back in here.” The stampede began.
Blair walked over the desk, jerking the drawer open and fishing out his phone. He almost dropped it when he saw the caller. It was Bridget. He was paralyzed, a deer about to be run down by a careless driver. Fuck. He sagged into his worn leather chair.
“Hello,” he said. Somehow the phone had found his ear.
“Blair?” a trembling voice asked. He recognized it immediately. How could he not? “Listen, I know this is out of the blue, but my God, you’ve got to see what we’ve found. It’s enormous, bigger than Giza, older than Göbekli Tepe, at least thirteen thousand years from the sediment covering the structure. How soon can you be here?”
“Bridget?” he asked, chair creaking as he leaned back. He removed his wire-frame glasses and set them on the desk. He’d need his full attention or she’d have him agreeing to some crazy plan before he even knew what she was talking about. “I haven’t heard from you in almost three years, and our last conversation wasn’t exactly friendly. I don’t even know what country you’re in. Slow down and explain.”
“Peru. Blair, we’ve found a pyramid unlike anything ever discovered. It’s at least thirteen thousand years old. Thirteen, Blair,” she said, pausing long enough for the implications to sink in. “The hieroglyphs don’t match any recorded style. They’re not Incan, and they’re more advanced than the Mayans’. Steve is completely baffled.”
“Ahh,” he replied, surprised by the depth of his bitterness. Blair rose from his chair, pacing back and forth as he watched the last student trickle from the room. “So that’s why you called. Steve ran into more than he could handle, and you need me to bail him out. Then, assuming I can somehow help, he takes all the credit. Again. Is that it?”
“He doesn’t even know I’m calling. Leave him out of it, just for a moment. Don’t you want to be a part of this?” she asked, plunging forward with the conversation like an implacable wave, as always. “Think of it. This could completely redefine our understanding of—”
“Let me stop you there,” he interrupted, cradling the phone with his ear while he shoved the day’s quizzes into his briefcase. “I’m not interested, Bridget. I have tenure. I live in Wine Country. Things are good for me here. Besides, I don’t want to play Indiana Jones anymore. The pay is shit and the hours suck. I like sleeping in a real bed. You know what I like even better? Not having to see you on a daily basis.”
“I deserved that,” she said after a long pause.
Her contrite tone didn’t seem feigned. She must need his help badly. “Blair, you’re too young to be a stuffy professor. Don’t cheat yourself out of this because you’re angry at me. This could make your career. Think of what we could learn. This could be your chance to—”
“I mean it, Bridget. I’m not budging on this one,” he said as firmly as he could manage. It was difficult to deter her once she had decided she wanted something.
“I understand your reservations. I get that. Things didn’t end well, but please don’t let my mistakes make you miss this. You’ll never forgive yourself once you understand what we’ve found. It’s beyond amazing,” She said, tone suffused with her usual passion.
There was a long pause that stretched until he thought maybe she’d hung up. “Besides…I’m scared. I’ve never seen Steve like this. He’s obsessed, more than usual. He won’t eat, and he barely sleeps. All his time is spent down in the temple’s central chamber.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Really,” Blair answered dryly, grabbing his keys and trotting up the stairs to the door. He almost flicked off the lights before remembering the students would be returning in a few minutes. He left them on, slipping into the cool evening. “If you want to send me some pictures, I’ll take a look. That’s the best I can do. I’m not flying six thousand miles to bail Steve’s ass out. Again. I have forty tests to grade.”
“All right, all right. I’ll leave you be, for now. Just remember that I don’t fight fair,” Bridget replied, giving one of those throaty little laughs he’d so loved when they first met. It sliced through the intervening years.
The phone beeped its melancholy disconnect. Blair threaded past clusters of students as he crossed the lawn, toward the south lot. A handful of cars still dotted the parking lot. At least he wasn’t the only one desperate enough to teach night classes. The extra pittance mattered more than he’d like to admit.
He fumbled in his pocket for his keys, opening his Ford’s door with a reluctant groan. Blair tossed his briefcase in the back, dropping onto the sheepskin seat cover he’d added to hide the battle scars. If only he could do the same to this thing’s tragic paint job.
Damn Bridget for knowing him so well. The oldest known pyramids in the Americas had been built, what, 2,600 years before Christ? Around the same time as the Egyptian ones, though the ones at Norte Chico were little more than large mounds. In both cases, the structures had been the center point of an entire culture. The implications of one existing six millennia earlier were monumental. That meant that there had been an older culture that had left almost no trace of its existence.
Who were they? Why had they disappeared? What had knocked their descendants down so hard that recovering even a fragment of their culture had taken eighty centuries? It was just the sort of mystery he’d always dreamed of solving. Discovering a common parent culture meant leaving a legacy that would endure as long as mankind continued to record knowledge. More than that, it might answer his own questions. What had come before the Egyptians and the Sumerians? Who built Göbekli Tepe? Why was it buried?
He smothered his enthusiasm. Was it worth leaving Santa Rosa, knowing he’d have to deal with Bridget and Steve? No, no it wasn’t. He turned the key, and the Ford revved to life. “Fuck her and fuck Steve.”
His phone buzzed in his jean pocket. Blair fished it out, thumbing the home button and checking the notification. He swiped the screen and peered at the image that sprang up. It had been taken from the bottom of a ravine and angled steeply upwards along the slope of a jet-black pyramid. Calling it massive was like calling a Siberian tiger a kitty cat.
Blair turned off the car. Nothing in the Americas—hell, nothing in the world—rivaled it. From the context, he guessed the height at more than three hundred meters, over twice as large as the Great Pyramid of Giza. The structure was carved from obsidian or maybe polished slate. Did they even have obsidian in the Andes? Even if they did, how had they gotten it there? The seams between the blocks must be incredibly fine for them to not show up in the photo.
“Clever Bridget,” he said, slouching into his seat. She definitely wasn’t fighting fair, but he wouldn’t take her bait. It was an amazing discovery, but not amazing enough to deal with her cheating ass again.
His phone vibrated. This time the picture was darker, probably a shot of an interior wall. It showed highly stylized hieroglyphs with more complexity than anything ever exhibited by a Mesoamerican culture—or African, for that matter. That wasn’t what caught his eye, though. The glyphs could have been painted yesterday. They were a riot of colors the equal of anything Photoshop might churn out.
The dense script contained thousands of symbols. That would make deciphering their alphabet impossible. Blair couldn’t even hope for a Rosetta stone. Modern societies shared no common language with a culture this old. No wonder Steve was baffled. Blair opened his recent calls and tapped Bridget’s name. The first ring hadn’t even finished when she picked up.
“How soon can you be here?” she purred.
“I can’t just walk out on my job, Bridget. I have rent,” he replied.
“If that’s the hang-up, I think we can reach an agreement. How does a hundred and fifty thousand dollars for eight weeks of work sound?” She said. He could practically hear the smile.
“That kind of money is too good to be true. Way too good,” he replied, but he’d already made his choice. Sometimes, you walked into the trap even though you knew it was there.
“I know, but it’s true. If you’re in, I can have the funds wired as soon as you sign your NDA and contract,” she said. “We’ll even arrange for a call from the president of Peru to arrange a leave of absence. So what do you say?”
“If you’re on the level? I’d say I’m in,” he replied, turning the car back on. This was going to be the most memorable mistake he’d ever made.
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