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Ancient Arrow Project
The blueprint of exploration has an overarching intention; you are not the recipients of divine labor and meticulous training only to ensure that you may enjoy endless bliss and eternal ease. There is a purpose of transcendent service concealed beyond the horizon of the present universe age. If I designed you to take you on an eternal excursion into nirvana, I certainly would not construct your entire universe into one vast and intricate training school, requisition a substantial branch of my creation as teachers and instructors, and then spend ages upon ages piloting you, one by one, through this enormous universe school of experiential learning. The furtherance of the system of human progression is cultivated by my will for the explicit purpose to merge the human species with other species from different universes.
An Excerpt from Tributary Zones, Decoded from Chamber 22
Though Neruda lacked the infrared equipment, he did have a compass. It was still fairly early by his standards -- about 2300 hours. He took a few supplies with him in a small pack, selected a standard issue ACIO jacket that said DoD Weather Research Center in small block letters, and began walking in an easterly direction.
He took a wide berth around the campsite careful to avoid detection by Evans. Neruda coveted his privacy such as it was. He knew very well that Evans or anyone associated with the security team could track his whereabouts. All ACIO personnel had embedded tracking devices that the ACIO satellite network could follow. No one liked it, but the Labyrinth Group conceded that it was necessary when the technology was developed in the mid '60s. It managed paranoia, as Fifteen explained.
The implants were only the size of a grain of rice and inserted just below the neckline to the right of the spine. They transmitted an individual's unique body frequency. The ACIO discovered in 1959 that every person emitted a relatively stable and totally unique vibratory pattern. The bodyprint, as it was called within the ACIO, was every bit as reliable as a fingerprint. This discovery led to a technology that isolated a person's bodyprint and transmitted it to a satellite network jointly owned and operated by the NSA and ACIO.
Defections within the ACIO were considered the greatest risk to its ongoing success and future. The bodyprint implant technology was the primary method through which ACIO employees were restrained from defecting. There were other technologies -- both in development and fully deployed -- that also minimized the risk. It was the one thing about the ACIO that Neruda had never been able to accept.
A coyote's mournful howl brought Neruda to a full stop to get his bearings.
He had cleared the campsite and was picking his way through the sparse Pinion trees and sagebrush. The moon was a thin, florescent sickle, its light as faint as a tired whisper despite the clear night air. In contrast, the stars almost glared at the desert landscape and managed to reveal enough desert flora and rocks so Neruda could pick his way at a comfortable pace.
He felt more confident as he went out of visual range of the campsite so he turned on his flashlight and picked up his pace. His flashlight seemed uncomfortably powerful against the dark desert, and he felt like he was intruding into a restricted world.
He made it to the top of the ridge he had pointed out to Emily only fifteen minutes earlier. He could see it, even without infrared. It looked just as Samantha said. A lonely, phallic-shaped sandstone formation looming over its neighborhood of gnarled trees, intricate sagebrush, and stunted rock outcroppings.
When the binoculars came down from his eyes he could tell the site was less than two kilometers away. Neruda assessed his situation. He wasn't particularly tired. Maybe a little winded from the climb, but otherwise his body and mind were wide-awake. The air temperature was cool, but the climb up the ridge left him feeling warm.
Without hesitation, he walked towards the rock structure like it was home.
* * * *
The smell of coffee and bacon woke Andrews even before the morning light seeped through the dark, green skin of the tent. He rolled over in his sleeping bag and heard the book crash as it found the red, rocky floor. It brought his eyes open with a start. No Neruda. His sleeping bag was empty and undisturbed.
"Are you guys awake yet?" It was Emily radiating her cheerful voice outside the tent.
"Yeah, we're up," Andrews replied through an unconcealed yawn, "but I haven't seen anything of Neruda. He must've gotten up early."
"It's early right now. It's only six," Emily retorted, her voice less cheerful.
"Well, if you haven't seen him and he's not in here, then he's probably with Collin or Evans."
"No, they're eating breakfast, and they never mentioned seeing Neruda."
Andrews unzipped his sleeping bag and stood up. "Maybe he liked the walk so much last night that he took another this morning. Shit, I don't know."
"We never went for a walk last night."
"Well, I'm sure he'll turn up soon. For one thing, the smell of coffee should draw him out if anything will. It's working on me."
"If you see him, tell'um we have eggs, bacon, and coffee ready."
Andrews could hear her footsteps fade as she walked away.
Evans was reviewing maps when he looked up, "Any sign of Jamisson yet?" He took a sip of coffee.
None that I've seen," Andrews replied, "but then I've hardly been looking for him either."
"Maybe we should..."
"I can't believe he'd just leave the camp," Emily said. "Did you see him at all last night?"
Andrews was heaping eggs and bacon on his plate. "I don't know... I don't remember seeing him at all last night. But when I sleep, I'm out cold."
"He went to the site," Evans said with incredulity in his voice. "He broke protocol again. He couldn't wait until the morning. I'll bet he went last night after we went to bed."
Evans pulled out a small black box about the size of a pack of cigarettes. The ACIO only used secure lines when communicating, and the black box was a digital paging device. His large hand, resembling tanned leather, completely smothered the object as his thumb pressed a green button. He turned his back, and in a hushed voiced, spoke into its transmitter, "Immediately perform a bodyprint scan for Neruda. Send exact coordinates. Determine movement boundaries within one meter." He pushed the send button and waited for message confirmation. An amber-colored light blinked and Evans put the pager back into his vest pocket.
The ACIO preferred single-loop, or non-real-time communication. It was much harder to decode because encryption was changed every time a message was sent; thus the context was nearly impossible to derive. But it frustrated Evans sometimes because it took longer to get an answer.
"Is the artifact still in your tent?" Evans asked turning to Andrews.
"Far as I know. The case is there, I assume the artifact is inside."
Emily jumped to Neruda's defense, "Are you implying he'd take the artifact and go to the site without us?"
"He's at the site," Evans replied. "He probably didn't take the artifact only because of its weight. But trust me, he's there."
"And why would he do that?" Andrews asked, his mouth full of food.
"You don't know about last night, do you?" Emily asked.
"No... I was sleeping, remember?"
"Samantha and Jamisson were both communicating with the artifact. It somehow activated and sent them images of where its homebase was. We got a pretty good fix on its location... about three kilometers east of our position." Evans stood up from the folding table, and pulled his pager out of his pocket. "What's taking them so damn long?"
"It's very early; maybe they're short-staffed," Emily offered.
"So when will we leave for this site?" Samantha asked.
"As soon as I get verification, I'll call our ride."
Andrews turned to look east for a quick glance. "Looks like a pretty good climb up that ridge. How're we going to carry the artifact?" He shoved more food in his mouth like a parolee's first taste of home cooking.
"We're all being airlifted. Don't worry." Evans' voice revealed that his thoughts were elsewhere. "Damn it, Jenkins! What's taking you so long?"
"So tell me what happened last night with you and the artifact." Andrews stole a quick look at Samantha and then anchored his eyes on the scrambled eggs he was devouring.
Samantha stuttered a bit, unsure of how to describe her experience. "I saw an image of its homebase."
"And we know it's three miles east because... because you saw an image of... of what?" Andrews asked.
"An unusual rock formation." Samantha found herself reluctant to talk. Her psychic abilities had been questioned and ridiculed her entire life, and she had become expert at sniffing out what she called, trip-up questions. It had taught her the skill of calculated reticence even among her ACIO colleagues.
"She also saw a cavern -- "
"Finally!" Evans exclaimed before Emily could finish her thought. He sat down and scanned the small display screen, cupping his hand to shield it from the awakening sun. His lips moved, but surrendered no sound as he read the message:
0527 -- 0921: NERUDA BP ID'ED @ NML0237/L0355. 3.27 KILOMETERS ESE FROM YOUR PRESENT POSITION. MOVEMENT BOUNDARIES NEGATIVE. VITAL SIGNS INTACT. EXTREMELY FAINT READINGS. ADVISE.
Evans pursed his lips momentarily and spoke into the pager, "No further actions required. Monitor and update. All is well. End transmission."
"He's at the site, and he's sleeping," Evans made no effort to conceal his frustration. He glanced at his wristwatch. "Let's get ready. Bird'll be here in less than fifteen minutes."
Evans walked away without another word. Emily looked at Samantha as if to read her eyes for an explanation, but Samantha could only stare to the eastern ridge, her mind squarely on the task ahead.
"Did you notice if he took his sleeping bag?" Emily asked.
"He didn't take it," Andrews replied. "It was unused."
"I can't imagine Neruda sleeping out in the desert without a sleeping bag," Emily said, "let alone his morning coffee. Something's wrong."
"You think he's injured?"
"I don't know, but something's wrong." Emily turned to face Samantha. "What do you feel?"
Samantha looked to Emily with a sense of empathy. "He's okay. That's what I feel."
"You don't feel he's in any danger?"
Emily's face visibly relaxed. "If we're going to keep up with Evans, we'd better get in high gear."
"Shit, if there's one thing you can count on, Neruda's too damn smart to put himself in danger." Andrews' voice was consoling. He rustled a few paper plates into a plastic garbage bag, and handed it to Emily. "Anyway, I have to disassemble a tent in five minutes that took us thirty to put up. I better run. See ya in ten."
* * * *
"Last chance, do you want to walk it or ride?" Evans' voice was barely audible above the roar of the helicopter. Sand was ripping through her hair and pricking her skin like tiny scythes eager for blood; Emily finally relented to ride.
"I just think we should send someone by foot in case he retraces his steps." She sat down in the seat beside Evans with a scowl on her face.
"The point is," Evans began, "is that he's still sleeping or I would've been updated on his change of position."
"How will we pick up his trail when we land?" Emily asked. "This thing puts out hurricane-force winds." She waved her hands in the air wildly to emphasize her discontent.
"Look, we'll land a half kilometer east of his position and double back. Okay?" Evans dropped his head to peer over his bifocals, which he had donned to look at a map. He knew it gave him an authoritative look.
"Okay." Emily echoed silently with her lips.
It was only seconds later that Collin pointed to the spindly rock tower that loomed ahead. It was an eerie structure. Silhouetted against the rising sun, it looked like a stack of coins ready to fall at a mere breath.
The helicopter reached its position in less than five minutes. Emily kept an eye on the rocky terrain throughout the ride, while Evans was preoccupied with the map. Samantha closed her eyes seemingly troubled by the noisy ride, or perhaps to avoid a conversation with Andrews.
The copilot came back to the passenger chamber and told them that they were going to land directly below, and everyone should get ready to jump out. Samantha held her stomach and grimaced, obviously unsettled by the sudden drop in elevation.
They filed off the chopper quickly, Evans first, assisting everyone else to a safe exit. The copilot handed some backpacks to Evans and Collin, and then the aluminum case was delicately transferred to Evans. "We'll be on standby unless we hear from you, otherwise we'll rendezvous at these coordinates at 1800 hours. Good luck."
Evans acknowledged the copilot with a wave of his hand, and the helicopter sped away like a large beetle. The ensuing silence swallowed them as only the desert can do.
"So where the hell do we pick up his trail?" Andrews asked, a little uncomfortable with how loud his voice suddenly seemed.
"Before we get started, there're a few protocols we all need to bear in mind from this point forward," Evans was pivoting his head to survey the landscape as if he were getting his bearings. "First, base communication is exclusively through me. Second, if we find anything peculiar -- like the homebase of this artifact -- we operate in reconnaissance mode only. We secure the site; we don't explore it. Understood?"
Everyone nodded as Evans swiveled his head to look for a response. "And keep hydrated. We'll stop periodically to rest and take water. If anyone needs more frequent rests, just say so. Otherwise we'll press on."
Evans looked west for a few moments; his nostrils flaring like he was a bloodhound sniffing out its prey. "We have his coordinates, we'll start there and then walk in a westerly, southwesterly direction until we spot his trail. In this mixture of sand and stone, it shouldn't be too hard to see his footprints."
"What about Samantha?" Emily asked. "Couldn't she help?"
"Let's try it the old-fashioned way first," Evans answered. "If we don't pick up his trail in the next twenty minutes, we'll look at other alternatives -- including RV."
Andrews looked to Evans after taking a long sip of water from his canteen. "If you really want to try the old-fashioned way, how bout yelling at the top of our lungs?"
"Let's find his trail first. Then we can yell." Evans laughed under his breath as he walked towards the coordinates that disclosed Neruda's bodyprint. Andrews adjusted his backpack and became the thing he hated the most: a follower.
Evans picked a path through two rock arroyos that were about 50 meters across. The rocks were the color of light cinnamon, and as the sun was rising in the east, they bore a reddish tint. The air was completely still and the jackets were beginning to feel a little too warm as they walked their way through the sparse desert underbrush.
* * * *
Only ten minutes into their trek, Collin found a footprint.
"Neruda!" Evans immediately yelled with his hands cupped around his mouth. He called several times in the direction of the footprints and waited for a response. A slight echo accompanied his call, but nothing resembling Neruda's voice. Emily tried as well, but to the same effect.
"Isn't it reasonable to assume he's hurt?" Emily asked, turning to Evans. "I mean let's face it, Neruda's not prone to sleep in the open desert without a sleeping bag. Something happened to him." Her voice trailed off to a whisper. "And it can't be good."
"We don't know that for certain," Evans argued. "His vitals were fine. I'm sure he's just sleeping."
"Then why isn't he answering us?"
"Let's just follow his trail and find out," Collin replied like a mediator. "No sense standing around speculating." Collin was very thin, mid-forties, with reddish-brown hair revealing a hint of silver over both ears, and a single streak on top to match. He seemed uncomfortable standing in one spot for long, as if his bird-like legs couldn't support his body weight.
"NERUDA!" Evans called one more time, his voice sounding increasingly impatient at the return of silence.
"Let's go wake him up," Evans said.
They followed his tracks easily, until they came to a rock outcropping where his trail became more suspect. They fanned out, scattering themselves like ants in search of food. But his trail had disappeared. No one could find any more footprints.
"He's got to be somewhere in these rocks. Maybe there's a ledge or cave somewhere." It was Evans' voice yelling to the rest of the team. "Look for any signs of a crevice or opening in the rocks."
Emily could sense a growing concern in his voice. She could feel a tension in the air. Everyone was aware that they could be within a few meters of an ET homebase. Perhaps an active site. The disappearance of Neruda compounded the strange sense of impending doom or discovery.
"I found a print," shouted Samantha. "It's the same as the others... I... I think." She was kneeling near the print with a stick in her hand pointing it out as everyone arrived.
"Good," remarked Evans. "Now we know which direction he was going." Everyone fan out five meters apart and let's walk slowly."
"NERUDA!" Emily shouted again. A stronger echo sounded now that they were in the depths of a canyon wall. They were approaching a massive wall of rock that towered 40 meters in a nearly vertical line. They walked deliberately, their heads pivoting like surveillance cameras.
"I think I found another print," Samantha said, "but I'm not sure."
"It's as if he disappeared into this wall of rock," Andrews said. "Why would he have come here? Isn't that the rock you saw in your vision?" He was pointing, like a hitchhiker, to the slender rock structure directly behind them about 100 meters away.
"Looks like a print, but it's not a clear one. Unfortunately, there's not much sand or loose rock around here." Evans closed his eyes momentarily as if he were trying to clear his mind to focus on Neruda's whereabouts.
"He's nearby. I can feel him. He's not sleeping. He's awake." Evans' voice sounded distant, as if he was talking to himself. "I think he's in there." His hand was pointing directly ahead to the sheer rock face of the canyon wall.
"If he's in there, how'd he get in?" Emily asked.
"There must be an opening somewhere. Let's examine the rock face carefully. There's an opening somewhere."
"Maybe we should use the artifact," Samantha offered. "If it's a homing device, and we're this close -- "
"Let's find Neruda first," Evans snapped, "and worry about the artifact's homebase later."
"But maybe they're one and the same location," Samantha said hesitantly.
"I doubt it." Evans looked away, staring with his gunmetal eyes to the wall in front of them. "How the hell would he find the homebase without the artifact? Especially at night."
"I don't know, but then how'd I know how to turn the artifact off last night?" Samantha's words hung weightless in the crisp morning air, surrounded in deep silence like an archipelago in a turquoise sea.
"Okay, we'll look for an opening first... and if we don't find anything in ten minutes, we'll try the artifact."
"Why not let Samantha fiddle with the little monster while we look for a doorway into this fucking mountain?"
Evans sighed. He looked to Emily and Collin to see their reaction to Andrews' suggestion. "Emily, you look over there. Collin, try that side beyond those rocks. Andrews, take that ledge over there, just beyond those small trees. I'll take the center so I can stay close to Samantha in case anything happens. If you see anything that even vaguely resembles an opening, let me know immediately."
"I still don't see why you think he's in there," Andrews was looking disdainfully at the massive rock wall in front of the team. "Maybe he was just fucking lost. One footprint shouldn't -- "
"Look," Evans said, barely checking his anger, "I feel that he's in there. That's good enough for me. If it's not good enough for you, look elsewhere, but stop arguing with me."
Andrews looked down pretending to examine the footprint.
"Let's go." Evans started to walk away and then stopped abruptly to look at Samantha. "Are you okay with this?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I'm sure I'll be okay." She smiled weakly, resigned to the fact that she'd be alone with the artifact.
"I'm only seconds away. Call if you need anything."
"Good luck," she managed to say under her breath as they dispersed to their assigned search areas. Emily waited while the others walked away.
"Samantha," Emily said quietly, "are you going to RV Neruda?"
"It doesn't sound like I need to. Evans knows he's in there. He's SL-Fourteen. I'm not going to argue with him."
"They're not perfect," Emily said. "I've heard stories about their psychic abilities, too, but I think it'd be a good idea to RV him if for no other reasons than to corroborate Evans' assumptions."
"I can do that," Samantha offered.
"Thanks, you're a sweetheart."
"You're very welcome," Samantha replied, smiling to the ground.
"Oh, by the way," Emily asked, "do you remember how to turn off the artifact if it re-activates?"
"I've no idea, but then that didn't stop me before. Besides, I think we're acquainted now. I have a feeling it will behave differently with me now."
"I hope you're right," Emily patted her lightly on the shoulder as she walked by in pursuit of Neruda's whereabouts. She liked Samantha's shy, sensitive nature. It reminded her of herself some years earlier. Before the cancer.
The wall of rock loomed before them, blocking the sun's rays and casting a sense of surreal beauty and mystery. In the shadow of the wall the air was cool, but the absolute calm made it tolerable even without a jacket. The rocks that had fallen from the mammoth wall over the millennium were the size of small houses. It was easy to imagine how it might have looked and sounded when they fell like glacial shards.
Samantha busied herself with the task of setting up RePlay and preparing for her encounter with the artifact. She always preferred to work alone when she was doing RV work. All she required was a data input, which were usually search coordinates and time frame. It was odd, but if she knew too much about the search parameters, she was less likely to be accurate. Branson called the phenomenon Ghost-Knotting, somehow implying that too much knowledge about the search confounded the free flow of psychic energy.
Samantha had experienced this only once before, and it troubled her now because she was in similar circumstances. She knew the subject, location, and the objectives of the search. Consciously, it would be hard to let go of her knowledge and simply see and hear the images that press upon her during a Remote Viewing session. The images are so delicate and fragile. They require complete absorption. Otherwise, they dissipate before they can be understood and made sensible by RePlay.
As she donned her headgear, affectionately called the Brain Shell, she opened the case. The artifact was quiet. She was a little surprised. Maybe she had turned it off permanently. Or maybe its mission was completed last night.
She looked over the object carefully, touching its casing as if it were a newborn babe. She flipped the switch for RePlay, adjusted the capture sensitivity, settled into a sitting position with legs crossed Indian style, and closed her eyes like heavy doors shutting out the noise of a busy street.
At the last second, she had changed her mission objectives from locating Neruda to identifying the location of the artifact's homebase. She rationalized that Neruda would be there anyway, and with this strategy, she'd kill two birds with one stone.
Within moments, she began to see an image emerge on the screen of her mind. Her boss referred to this phenomenon as BS Static because the Brain Shell, when it was first turned on, often produced an image of its own in the RV operative. It had something to do with its electrical field and its proximity to the visual cortex. However, this image was unlike anything she'd ever seen before.
Three hazy shapes were forming that looked like green rectangles floating in a gray-brown light. Her mind's eye squinted in reflex to the diffuse shapes, hoping that she could resolve the shape and purpose, but nothing she did made a difference. They looked a little like doorways -- though she didn't intuit that that was their purpose.
The rectangles, hovering in space, began to spin -- each in different directions. The first remained vertical, spinning counter clockwise; the second rotated forward lengthwise like a windmill; and the third spun clockwise in the vertical plane. Without warning, she became aware that the artifact was humming and that it was somehow connected to the image -- the motion -- she saw.
She decided to test the door hypothesis and approached the objects. As she came closer they stopped, and the humming from the artifact became silent. She thought about stopping the session, but there was something about the way these rectangular shapes commanded her attention. There was a presence, a power that they exuded, which she had never before encountered. It seemed natural and unnatural at the same time, and it was this paradox that drew her forward.
Samantha reached out to touch the middle object, and as she did, the shape changed. It began to take on characteristics of a human male, elderly, tall, bearded, looking the part of a wizard with eyes that bore into hers with such intensity she could only turn away. "Do not fear us," a voice filled her, reverberating inside. It was as if every cell in her body had suddenly grown ears.
"We are what you seek, what you have always sought," the voice continued. It was authoritative, yet gentle. "You are being led even at this very moment to find what we have left for you. It is already within your grasp, and when you find your fingers reaching for it, close them securely without hesitation. Without fear. We tell you that it is the only way. The only way."
The words gave way to silence. Samantha looked again at the being that was before her. It had reverted to the form of a rectangle. Hovering like a green, featureless door.
She spoke from pure instinct. "What is within our grasp?"
"The way into our world," the voice replied.
"Your world?" She echoed without thinking.
"You will only find our world if you proceed without fear. It is the only barrier into our world that is impenetrable."
"Why do you want us to find your world?" Samantha asked, aware that her voice sounded perplexed.
"We have been within your species since its creation on this planet that you call Earth. We are within your DNA-encoded into the invisible structures that surround and support your DNA. Our world is both within you and more distant than your mind can comprehend. You will find our world because you need our assistance to awaken a part of your nature that is hidden from your view behind the languages of your world."
"Hidden?" Samantha asked. "In what way?"
An image of Earth, encircled in a latticework of light filaments, filled the surface of the center rectangle. It was as if a three-dimensional movie were being projected on its surface. "Your planet is of interest to an extraterrestrial species that you are not aware of at this time. It is a species more advanced and more dangerous than your average citizen can imagine. If humankind is destined to be the stewards of this genetic library called Earth, which we so carefully cultivated and exported to this galaxy, then it will need to defend itself from this predator race."
The image of Earth enlarged as if a camera were slowly zooming in on the diminutive blue sphere, floating in the vastness of an ink-black space. Samantha began to notice several pulsing lights that seemed to mark strategic locations on the planet. Her eyes locked onto the general area of New Mexico, where she saw a location marker.
"What is hidden from you," the voice continued, "is that your planet is part of an interconnected universe that operates in ordered chaos outside the constructs, instruments, technologies, and formulaic inventions of your scientists. There is something beneath the particle and wave, beneath the subconscious, beneath the spiritual resonance of Earth's greatest teachers, and this Language of Unity remains hidden from you. It is encoded in your DNA. We did this. And we placed the triggers within your DNA that would awaken your ability to survive a shift in your genetic makeup."
"Why? Why do we need to make a genetic shift?" She couldn't contain her skepticism, but as she spoke the words she could feel her fear begin to rise. Whatever she was interacting with was an unknown, and she knew that to trust anything or anyone in a self-directed RV session was folly.
"You will find out soon enough," the voice replied. "After this encounter, you will feel a new confidence in your powers of inquiry. It is the one element that will sustain you in the face of doubt and fear that will confront you in the weeks ahead. On a level that you have never seen, you are a holographic entity that is woven throughout all things, and when you touch into this feeling, you awaken a frequency of your consciousness that will guide you into our world. You have no reason to believe us, yet you know our words have no other purpose than to awaken a part of you long dormant. We are the WingMakers. We leave you in the Light that is One."
The rectangles blurred into a greenish-gold light that completely filled her vision. The sound of Andrews' distant voice broke her concentration, and she regained her human composure, faintly aware that she had lost contact with the most amazing force she had ever seen.
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