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Ancient Arrow Project
All beliefs have energy systems that act like birthing rooms for the manifestation of the belief. Within these energy systems are currents that direct your life experience. You are aware of these currents either consciously or subconsciously, and you allow them to carry you into the realm of experience that best exemplifies your true belief system. When you believe "I am a fragment of First Source imbued with ITS capabilities," you are engaging the energy inherent within the feeling of connectedness. You are pulling into your reality a sense of connection to your Source and all of the attributes therein. The belief is inseparable from you because its energy system is assimilated within your own energy system and is woven into your spirit like a thread of light.
An Excerpt from Beliefs and Their Energy Systems,
Decoded from Chamber Four
The desert at night was a magical world steeped in silence and clarity. Neruda was reminded of this as he and Andrews set up their tent.
Neruda needed a good night's sleep. During the two-hour, chopper ride he had stolen a few minutes of shuteye, but most of his time was spent reviewing the mission agenda with Evans; selecting a site to make camp; and bringing Samantha Folten up to speed on the mission objectives and the artifact.
Walt Andersen hadn't been available for the trip on three-hour notice due to an illness in his family. Evans relented, allowing Samantha to join the exploration team despite her relatively low security clearance. Neruda was secretly pleased, partly because Samantha was new and enthusiastic, and partly because she was so highly recommended by Branson.
"You know tomorrow's gonna be one kick-ass day, boss."
Neruda smiled at Andrews' unconventional choice of words. Among the scientific core, Andrews was the only one who spoke with such guttural spontaneity. Over the years, it had become a comfort to Neruda. Oddly enough, it was even a source of admiration. Neruda often wished he could recite these same words with Andrews' natural ease.
"As long as you're around to provide colorful commentary, I'm sure it will be." When Neruda was alone with Andrews, sarcasm was an involuntary reflex.
Emily poked her head inside the sloping tent. "You boys still playing with your tent?" she lightly prodded.
Neruda and Andrews answered in unison. "Get out!"
"A little sensitive, aren't we?" Even in the dim light of the lantern, her smile was contagious.
"Samantha and I finished our set-up, brewed some decaf, and we're just about ready for a little walk before bed. We thought we'd see if you gentlemen wanted to join us." She put just enough of an English accent on the word "gentlemen" to remind them both of her Cambridge education.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead and brag all you want about your quick set-up, but you didn't have to listen to the bossman explain, in tedious detail, all about our contingency plans."
Neruda could only grunt in disagreement, as he focused on tying the final rope and taking out any slack.
"Is Samantha with you?" he asked.
"She's a little shy around you SL-Twelvers," Emily quipped.
"She's probably heard how you read minds and pick apart alibis. All the RVs are wary of you guys. Everyone else thinks you're just a bunch of pussycats." Andrews said half-seriously.
"Did I hear correctly? You have coffee made, or are you just trying to make us old gentlemen feel bad?" Neruda asked.
"Yep to which question?"
"And were you planning to share some of that coffee?"
"Let me confer with my new roommate." Emily stuck her head outside the tent for a moment. Whispered voices exchanged a few words.
"Yep, but we have one condition."
"And that would be?"
"Samantha wants to see the artifact."
Neruda paused, trying to feel his reaction rather than think about it. "Okay," was his instinctual reply. "I know it's hard to believe, but we're almost done here. We'll meet you at your tent in a few minutes. I'll bring the artifact along and make the proper introductions.
"Will you two busybodies have enough time to bake some cookies before we arrive?" Neruda smiled as he spoke, darting his mischievous eyes between Emily and the silhouette of Samantha outside the tent.
"Probably will, I reckon." Emily turned and left her fake southern accent floating behind.
"You know, boss, I'm not sure it's such a good idea to let Samantha look at this thing," Andrews said, pointing to the aluminum carrying case, custom designed for the artifact.
"She's an RV.""I realize you don't trust RVs, but try to be a little less paranoid if you can."
"Look'it, I'm paranoid because we have Evans and an RV on our mission. The combination's shit. You know that. Anything that happens out of the ordinary will immediately fall out of your hands." Andrews was whispering again.
"Well then, let's make sure we keep everything as ordinary as possible," Neruda replied. "And we could start by getting our damn tent set up."
"Relax, boss. We're all done. Ta da." With that he stood up and put his arms out the way a magician does after completing an extraordinary feat of illusion.
* * * *
"Is your tent still standing?" Emily asked with a smile. She was tending the coffee on the fuel cell heater and organizing some shortbread cookies she had brought for the trip.
"It was when I left it."
"Luckily there's no wind tonight."
"Luckily there's coffee." Neruda's love of coffee was bested only by his zeal for discovery.
"Is Andrews going to join us?"
"I think he wanted to stay away from the combination of RV and artifact," Neruda whispered, leaning towards Emily's ear. "When you strip away his macho fašade, he's basically a scared little puppy underneath."
Emily laughed and called Samantha out of the tent.
Samantha was young by ACIO standards. Mid-thirties, slightly overweight with a shy smile and strikingly beautiful emerald-colored eyes that dominated her face. She looked Celtic with wavy red hair that was nearly waist-length. She was the kind of person who looked half enchantress, half wistful introvert.
Neruda gave her his most relaxed smile. He placed the case on the ground. "I think you'll find this fascinating," he began. "As I told you on the chopper, the object was found about nine kilometers from here. I want to wait until tomorrow morning before we proceed with full-blown RV and RePlay, but you can take a quick look at it now."
As he flicked open the latches and raised the top of the aluminum case, the artifact, half-buried in foam rubber, immediately began to hum in an eerie, pulsing manner. Samantha peered over the edge of the case. The light from the fire and nearby lantern seemed to pool in her face.
A look of worry replaced her excitement. Her eyes narrowed to focus exclusively on the object, and her lips tightened as if they'd been forbidden to speak.
Sensing something was wrong, Neruda hurriedly closed the lid over the artifact. Samantha crumpled to the ground, her head falling directly on top of the case. Emily shrieked. Neruda grabbed Samantha and held her head up lightly patting her cheeks with his hand. "Samantha. Samantha. It's okay. It's okay."
Samantha opened her eyes almost instantly. She looked at Neruda who was holding her head in his lap. "It's alive," she whispered as if in fear of being overheard by the object. "It's an intelligence... not a technology."
"Let's get you up," Neruda said as he helped her to her feet slowly.
"Are you okay?" Emily implored.
"Yes. I'm okay, just a little shocked by this -- "
"What the hell happened?" asked Evans as he burst on the scene, followed by Collin a few paces behind.
For an instant Neruda wasn't sure what to say.
"What happened?" Evans asked again, this time more insistently.
"Everyone just calm down," Neruda replied softly. "Is there enough coffee for everyone, Emily?"
"Yes, yes, of course."
"Let's sit down then, have a cup of coffee, and we'll tell you what we know. I'm as interested to hear from Samantha as anyone."
Samantha was visibly shaken, and Neruda helped her ease into one of the folding chairs gathered around the fire. Evans and Collin joined the circle of chairs loosely configured around the campfire.
Emily quickly began to pour coffee. Neruda gave the first cup to Samantha. The night air was starting to get cool, and the warm cup reminded Neruda that the desert's stored heat was giving way to the frigid darkness.
"You're sure you're okay?" Neruda asked again, crouching before Samantha. She took a long sip of coffee.
"Yes, I'm fine. Thank you."
"What did you experience? Can you tell us?" Neruda stood up only to sit down opposite Samantha in a folding chair that Evans had set up.
"I heard this humming... it... it immediately entrained my mind. It was an incredibly powerful hypnotic effect. It suggested an image -- "
"And what was the image?" blurted Evans.
"It was of a cave or dark structure of some kind."
"I don't know... maybe. It was designed... not a natural cave... more like an anteroom. Yes, the cave was constructed but disguised as a natural structure."
"By who?" Neruda and Evans asked in harmony.
"I don't know."
"Samantha, you said earlier that the artifact was alive. That it wasn't a technology, but rather an intelligence. What did you mean exactly?"
"I could be wrong, but the object seemed to project itself." Her voice was quivering and her breath was short. She swallowed, looking dazed. "It was reading my mind. I could feel it scan me. It was a little like being eaten alive -- only it was my thoughts that it was eating."
"It could still be a technology that did this, couldn't it?" Evans looked briefly at Neruda and then Collin.
"I can't imagine how this object could have organic intelligence," Collin stated. "It's just not practical that something made of metal alloys -- "
"I think we should assume this thing is dangerous." Evans stood up and remained silent. He was clearly thinking of alternatives.
"Let's not assume we know anything about this object," Neruda said. "This image you saw, Samantha, was it an entrance?"
"Yes, I think so."
"And all you saw was a dark structure of some kind?"
"Did you get a feel for distance or direction from our camp?"
"No. Not really. Though, just when you asked that now, it seems that it was nearby. I don't know for sure. It all happened in a few seconds. I was overwhelmed. It was a feeling of... of mental rape." She began to cry, her eyes dropping tears at every blink.
Emily squeezed her hand in support, and Evans, pacing around the fire pit assembling chairs, suddenly stopped. "You know this could be a probe. I don't know why you didn't consider this before. Homing device, compass, map. You thought of everything but a probe. Why?"
"Before we conclude our investigation, let's begin it," Neruda said with a hint of sarcasm. "With all due respect to Samantha, she could be misinterpreting the true intentions of the artifact."
"How so?" Evans demanded.
"It's possible the device was activated by her psychic abilities. Perhaps my own. I don't know. But the device was activated somehow, and it could be that its primary action is to try and connect with whatever activated it and deliver a message or image."
Neruda turned to Samantha again. "Did you hear what I just said?"
"Is it possible that the device was simply trying to connect with you? That it wasn't trying to hurt you?"
Samantha didn't move her head. Her face was withdrawn. Her eyes closed like ponderous doors, and everyone waited.
"Samantha, did you hear me?"
She remained unmoving as if she were sleeping.
Neruda intuited that the artifact was again probing her, or trying to connect in some way.
"I think she's communicating right now with the object."
"Shouldn't we snap her out of it?" Evans demanded. "She could be in some danger."
"She looks composed. Even peaceful." Neruda whispered. "Let's just observe for a while." He unlatched the aluminum case and slowly opened the top. The object was emitting an unmistakable vibration. It wasn't the hum from an electrical device. This hum was very subtle, almost unnoticeable, even in the silence of the desert. It was felt more than heard.
Samantha continued to look withdrawn, trance-like, in total rapport with the artifact. Neruda leaned closer to her and touched her forehead with the back of his hand as if he were trying to determine if she had a fever. He checked her pulse. He was satisfied that Samantha was okay.
As he sat back down, Neruda became a little woozy and disoriented.
"Are you okay?" Emily asked.
Neruda nodded slowly, but there was uncertainty in his eyes.
"I feel like I'm being dragged into unconsciousness," Neruda said faintly. "It's not easy to resist this thing -- "
Evans stood up and began pacing again. "Does anyone else feel this... this hypnosis?"
Collin and Emily both shook their heads and mumbled "no".
"Damn it, I thought we agreed to wait until the morning to start this investigation." Evans' voice was raised in pitch and intensity.
"I forgot to tell the object we were going to wait until the morning," Neruda confided, showing his sense of humor was intact. "Don't worry, I don't feel any danger. It's just trying to wire itself to its homebase and to my mind at the same time. It's as if this thing were making an introduction." Neruda mouthed the words like he were talking in his sleep. He rubbed the corner of his eyes with his forefinger. Every movement was strained as if gravity were suddenly intensified and time was stretched into the realm of slow motion.
"I understand." Samantha stirred. Her whole body shot out of her chair and she knelt before the artifact. She picked it up with great strain on her face, her arms struggling with the weight. She touched certain glyphs in a specific order with her fingers. The humming ceased.
"It's been designed to ward off intruders," Samantha explained. "It's protecting itself. It probes to determine your intent, and while it's probing, it discombobulates your thoughts. It essentially renders you helpless as it assesses your intentions."
Neruda snapped back to reality when Samantha turned the device off. "Did you see the site?"
"Yes," she said excitedly. "It's nearby. It's well-hidden, but I think we can find it."
"What site? Where?" Evans asked, slightly bewildered.
"I saw something, too," Neruda said. "I think I'd recognize it if I saw it again."
"Fine, but do you know where we should begin looking?"
"No," Neruda replied as if distracted by something.
"I think I can locate it by a landmark I saw." Samantha set the object back into its foam nest within the case, struggled to her feet a bit, and plopped herself back into her chair with a long sigh.
"You were about to tell us about a landmark," Evans reminded her.
"It's a thin, pointed rock formation, like a chimney stack. It's maybe thirty meters high, ten in circumference at its base, but only about five meters at its top. There can't be too many of these rock formations around here. Can there?"
"Did you see this, too?" Evans turned to Neruda ignoring Samantha's question.
Neruda shook his head. "For some reason I didn't see anything I could identify as a landmark, it was more of an assemblage of images, like a mosaic. And most of these were of a cavern or something subterranean.
"So what is it," Emily asked, "technology or a living intelligence?"
"Maybe both." Neruda smiled. "Whatever it is, it knows us a lot better than we know it."
"I don't know how it could be a living intelligence," Samantha began slowly, "but every bone in my body screams that it's alive. It's not an inanimate, programmed technology. It's a vital intelligence that is somehow stored inside or projected through this object."
Then, in frustration, she added. "Oh, I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm speaking in gibberish tonight. Excuse me."
"Under the circumstances, gibberish may be the only language of choice." Neruda smiled disarmingly and poured himself another cup of coffee. "You know, if it weren't for your coffee, Emily, I might've been dragged into unconsciousness by that thing." He laughed, and pointed with his free hand to the artifact. It looked tranquil like a baby bird asleep in its nest.
"It's decaf," Emily replied with a deadpan expression.
"So you're to blame for my lapse of concentration -- "
"I wish you'd take this a bit more seriously," Evans interjected. "We've just seen a technology render you two helpless, mentally rape you, as Samantha put it, and you're joking about the coffee."
Neruda calmly turned to Emily. "Can you bring me the SMT chart... number 2507?" Turning to Samantha. "How long before you could have RePlay set up and operable?"
"Ten minutes," She answered.
"Fine, go ahead and get set up." Neruda turned to Evans with sudden impatience etched on his face. "And what did you want to do?"
"Just observe... for now." Evans turned his gaze to the fire, detaching from Neruda's authoritative stare. Evans knew his presence on exploratory missions was always resented. He knew he put his colleagues on edge. He also knew it was his job to do so.
Emily returned from her tent holding a large sheet of paper and a flashlight. She handed both to Neruda, who spread the chart out on the ground about two meters from the fire.
The flashlight illuminated the center of the chart, which was covered in lines of various colors. Evans, Collin, and Emily all moved behind him, standing hunched over with hands on knees. Neruda was crouched with one knee on the ground.
"Here's Samantha's landmark," Neruda pointed with both the flashlight beam and his index finger. There was a small point of tightly formed circles, almost concentric, in a rainbow of colors near the center of the topographical map. "It's isolated, the right proportions, and about thirty meters tall," he continued. "And it's about three kilometers due east from our camp."
Let's wait on RePlay until morning," Evans said. "It's late, we know where we need to go. Let's all get some rest." His voice sounded clipped like a machine gun.
Samantha came out of the tent with her monitor and a headpiece that looked a little like a wire cage for her head. No matter how many times Neruda saw it, he always thought it looked like the silliest technology he'd ever seen. Most of the technologies that the ACIO developed were never mass-produced or designed with a consumer perspective. They were built by hand, one at a time. How they looked was never considered important.
"We're going to wait until morning, Samantha," Neruda said. "I'm sorry I wasted your time getting set up. But I think Jim's right, we should all get a good night's sleep and concentrate our energies on finding the site during the day."
Samantha nodded, somewhat relieved that she wouldn't have to make further contact with the artifact that night. She was feeling drained of energy, and sleep sounded like the perfect prescription.
"By the way," Neruda turned to Samantha, "how'd you know how to turn off the artifact?"
"What do you mean?" Samantha replied.
"Don't you remember getting up and shutting this thing down?" Neruda asked.
"No..." Samantha's eyes thinned to a line of fluttering eyelashes. She was concentrating her mind like a laser, and Neruda could see why Branson liked her so much.
"I have absolutely no recollection of getting up and turning anything off. Are you sure?" She looked from Neruda to Emily.
"I saw it, too," Emily confirmed. "You got up from your chair as quickly as if your pants were on fire. You picked up the artifact and began turning it in your... your left hand while your right hand was touching glyphs, in what at least looked like a specific order. You seemed to know exactly what you were doing."
"If I did that, I don't remember."
"Maybe your mind was a bit traumatized," Emily offered, "and you've got a mild case of amnesia."
"That doesn't explain how she knew how to de-activate the artifact." Neruda glanced at Emily. "The artifact somehow planted this knowledge inside you without you remembering. You acted without knowing your actions."
"So what're you saying?" Samantha asked. A nervous smile spread across her face, and her concentration scattered like smoke in the wind.
"I think we should stop speculating," Neruda closed the case and buckled its latches with a loud, synchronized click. "The only thing I know for sure is that this thing is not an only child. It has brothers and sisters that're nearby. And I can't wait to find them."
"How will you sleep tonight?" Emily asked with her southern accent fully lathered.
Neruda just laughed and picked up the case. "I'll see you both in the morning. Good night."
Neruda could hear Samantha's and Emily's muffled voices as he walked to his tent about twenty meters away. There was no movement in the desert air. It hung so perfectly still; Neruda felt its presence all the more.
Andrews was asleep. His headphones were still on and a book was draped across his chest, face down, spread out like a wounded bird of prey. From the sound of his breathing, Neruda knew he was in deep sleep. A place he wanted to be also, but he knew too much about the day's events awaiting them. He couldn't sleep. At least not yet.
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