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Old 12-29-2011, 12:24 AM   #6
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Tuesday 14 February 1871 (late morning)...

'I can't believe I'm going back there,' Garley thought to himself,
as they rode through the desert. 'I must be insane, even if they
are paying me this well.'

Garley and Chase and their party had made it back to Adelaide
safely, and when they had met with their employer and informed
them of what had happened, they'd discovered that their employers
were even better connected than they had realized, because they
had been able to arrange to have the authorities agree that the
whole matter was best left to private hands. Garley and Chase
and their men had informed the authorities of what they had found
(with some details left out because they were not sure they would
be believed and because they wanted to avoid being taken as
madmen), and somebody with some serious 'pull' had agreed to
let the private investigators employed by the same men who had
hired Garley and Chase to begin with handle it.

A truly handsome sum had been offered to lead the new party
out to the encampment site, and Garley had accepted, surprised
at his own decision. Chase was not with them, he was remaining
behind in Adelaide, in part as 'insurance'. If Garley and the party
did not come back on time, Garley did not fully trust their
employers to do something about it, but he did trust Chase. So
Chase was waiting back home for word, which gave Garley a bit
more confidence, though he wished he had his partner with him
at the same time.

This time, instead of a mule-pulled group of wagons, they were
riding horses, with a single wagon for supplies and water, and
they made better time. As they approached the site, Garley
expected to feel the same sense of impending uncertainty and
fear that had assaulted him before...but he had not. Everything
seemed much the same now as it had before, that morning before
their horrible discovery. The sun was at bright as before, the sky
was clear and the air as oppressively hot, the quiet of the desert
was the same...but the nervous fear was gone. Garley was nervous,
yes, but because of what he knew lay ahead, the strange, formless
anxiety was gone now.

They reached the encampment not too long before the middle of
the day, and found it looking much as Garley remembered. The
long wooden building looked the same, but for a slightly more
rundown look, which was to be expected with nobody tending it.
Several of the tents were down, blown over by winds, and the
whole place had a layer of dust over it...but nothing that would
not be expected from a site abandoned to the desert for weeks.

Garley showed the team of six men his employer had sent out
through the place. They were quiet men, not impolite but reserved,
Garley had had interesting discussions with them on the trip out,
but he still did not know anything about them
They were clearly experienced and competent people, though,
Garley knew professionalism when he saw it.

Eventually, Garley led them men into the tunnel. They were
equipped with personal gear appropriate for tunnel work, and
they reached the wooden wall at the end of the tunnel readily.
Garley was still wondering why the sense of fear and dread was
gone, he was dreading the site he knew waited beyond the wall,
the site he had seen before, but the formless, intangible anxiety
from before was simply absent now. He should have been
relieved, but if anything, the
absence of the former strange
nervousness made him nervous in a different way.

"This is it," Garley said, as the men reached the wooden wall.
"Brace yourselves, it's a bit of a ghastly site on the other side."

Garley put his hand on the incongruously shiny doorknob, and
turned it, and just as had happened a few weeks before, the door
opened, and they stepped inside. The scene had not changed, to
Garley's horror and relief, the skeletons were still there, sitting
and lying precisely as they had been before. The scene was just
as it had burned itself into his mind before, now more brightly
lit and clearly revealed.

After a moment, Garley suddenly wondered why he actually felt
relieved, and it struck him that he had half-
expected the skeletons to be gone by the time they got back,
leaving him with no evidence that he was not simply a madman
or a liar.

What a Hell of a thing to be relieved to find something like
this is still here, Garley thought to himself with a shake of
his head.

The skulls still lay on the wooden table, other skulls on the floor.
Bones of various sorts lay in and around piles of clothing, mute
testimony to whatever mysterious horror had befallen here a few
weeks before. There was still no doubt in Garley's mind that
these men had been very much alive on the morning of the day
they had previously arrived. He recalled that letter sitting in the
long house, it had been from that same day they'd arrived before,
whatever had happened here had happened only some few
before his previous visit.

The better lights lit the scene far more clearly, in all its macabre
weirdness, than the lanterns Garley and his men had used weeks
earlier. The lights also revealed something else. Garley recalled
a glimpse of something yellow in the glow of their lanterns from
the previous time, something barely seen before the horror of the
whole tableau had driven away in frightened panic. Now he saw
clearly what he had merely half-glimpsed before.

About a quarter-buried in the back of the tunnel, it looked like
an oblong glass...
something. There were marks in the soil
around it that showed where the men here had been digging it
out, and it widened in the middle and narrowed toward the free
end. If it did the same toward the buried end, Garley mused, it
would shaped like an egg, a perfectly symmetrical egg with the
widest part equidistant from the rounded ends.

The lights they now had were better, but it was still dim in the
chamber. The object glittered and sparkled though, it was covered
over most of its surface with flat triangular facets, except that at
the visible end it was grooved instead. It was translucent, indeed
it seemed to be made of some kind of glass or crystal, and if it
was symmetrical, Garley guessed it would be about seven feet
from end to end, and maybe four feet across the wide part, give
or a take bit on either. The glass had a definite yellow tint, a
yellow about the shade of a lemon, or so Garley thought as best
he could tell in the dim light.

"What the Hell is that?" one of the others asked as they stared at
it. "It looks like a golden egg!"

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