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Old 01-20-2013, 11:15 PM   #101
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


When the news arrived in Washington of the failed (relatively speaking) sabotage
attempt aboard the Molly Gordon, Robert McLaird grasped the implications
immediately. He also immediately recognized one salient fact about the entire
business, and that was a limited range of potential suspects. There simply were
not that many people physically in a position to have attempted the sabotage, and
the amateurish nature of the attempt argued against the effort being performed by
a genuinely professional operative. McLaird suspected that if they moved very
quickly, they had a reasonably good chance of identifying the person responsible.

The effort began immediately, and the lists of names were rapidly winnowed down
by concerted effort. Within a week of the bomb exploding, McLaird had narrowed
down the possibilities to no more than six men, and of those six only three appeared
to be reasonably realistic possibilities for being the guilty party.

As it happened, the saboteur, aware of the narrowing search, panicked and made the
task both easier and harder for McLaird and his team. The guilty party tried to flee
the facility where he worked, in a driving rainstorm, and ended up smashing his car
to pieces and removing himself from this world in the process when his car went
over the edge of the road into a rain-swollen river.

This made the investigation easier for McLaird by focusing attention on him, and
it was not long before the post-mortem investigation revealed reasonably solid proof
that the now-dead man had been the saboteur. It made things harder for McLaird
by removing the saboteur from any possibility of interrogation.

In fact, the man would not have been all that useful as a source of intelligence even
if he had been alive, he simply did not know that much. He had been an employee
of a master he did not know, his motive had been the classic one: money. He did
have knowledge of his immediate contacts, but given time, McLaird and his fellows
were able to identify some of them anyway, by analyzing the movements and past
associations of their now-dead saboteur.

In the meantime, the Seven Aces proper continued their voyage toward Brazil, and
Jurgensen continued to make his way toward his own goal. The Aces received an
unknowing lucky break when Jurgensen reached Rio de Janeiro, he organization
was in chaos and he took more time than he had planned, or hoped, to organize his
movement into the interior. Jurgensen would normally have been in the city and out
again within no more than two days on such an errand, in this case he ended by
requiring three days to organize his expedition and it was at dawn on the fourth day
after he arrived in Rio de Janeiro when Jurgensen and his expedition finally set out.

This was totally unknown to the Seven Aces or their superiors, but it was even so a
tremendous gift to them, because it enabled the Aces to sharply narrow the lead their
quarry held over them. The Seven Aces arrived in Rio de Janeiro the day after the
expedition led by Jurgensen left the city, they were no more than thirty-six hours or
so behind him at this point, though they did not know that, and they inevitably lost
some time in organizing their own movements. Still, McLaird had been busy, and
though his resources in Brazil (or rather, the resources of the Army Intelligence) at
that time were very limited, what there were had been put to good use.

Since travel by river was the only realistic way to operate, a riverboat had been made
ready, along with supplies and some equipment, and the Seven Aces brought in more
from their supplies aboard the Molly Gordon. Since secrecy was absolutely of
the essence, false identities had been prepared, along with ‘nested’ cover stories as to
what Conners and his men were seeking under those false identities. McLaird was
very, very good at that sort of thing, even on relatively short notice.

Matters were complicated by the fact that Brazil in late 1925 was far from an open,
egalitarian place. Most political and social power was held in the hands of a very
small landed elite, and the government was a republic in name and a dictatorship in
fact, with executive power passed back and forth between factions of an oligarchy.

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Old 01-21-2013, 04:28 AM   #102
Join Date: Oct 2004
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)

A nitpick: why Rio de Janeiro and not for example Belem or Macapa ?
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Old 01-21-2013, 12:59 PM   #103
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)

Originally Posted by Pomphis View Post
A nitpick: why Rio de Janeiro and not for example Belem or Macapa ?
Jurgensen went there because his organization had been thrown into chaos by the events in Illinois, and that's where his people in Brazil were, it was easier to go there than to have them try to organize what he needed at the mouth of the river. This is the more so because his internal lines of communication are also scrambled (remember, he was forced to kill many of his own best people himself for security reasons), and it was much more cumbersome to manage complicated long-distance communications in 1925 than it is now, even without the complications of security precautions and the fact that many of his 'employees' don't know him or have any direct communication link to him.

Oddly enough, some of that was true of the Aces, as well. What assets McLaird could call upon in Brazil on short notice were also in Rio, and further, that's where their (admittedly highly speculative) intel led them to beleive Jurgensen was going.

The Aces think they know roughly where Jurgensen is ultimately heading, but they aren't sure, so they're trying to track him in case they've got the destination wrong.

Last edited by Johnny1A.2; 01-21-2013 at 01:05 PM.
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Old 01-22-2013, 07:37 PM   #104
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Now Jurgensen was running only a couple of days ahead of the Aces, and both were
heading up the eastern coast of Brazil toward the mouth of the Amazon River. The
trip was uneventful for both, and Jurgensen neither widened his lead nor lost much
time relative to his pursuers.

(It should be kept in mind that Jurgensen did not know the Aces were so close behind
him, though he suspected that the possibility existed. Likewise, the Aces only
suspected that their unidentified quarry was ahead of them on the same main line as
themselves, they could not really know.)

A few more days saw both parties reach the Amazon, and begin heading up the long
river, making their way inland and ever further from the coastal cities, deeper and
deeper into areas that were only lightly explored, other than by the indigenous people.
At this point the Aces finally began to get some confirmation that their quarry was
where they believed him to be, in their occasional stops along the way, at villages and
outposts, they discovered that someone had passed through not long earlier, and some
people had seen a man who matched the description of the man they had encountered
in Chicago and Petrograd. If nothing else, this was a relief for Connors, who until
that point had no way to know if he had not been on an immense ‘wild goose chase’.

Even more of a relief was that one such confirmation came after they had left
the main channel of the Amazon, heading up a huge tributary river that they thought
led toward the area Howard Lake had deduced to be the goal of their quarry. This
suggested that they were still on the right track, though their quarry remained ahead
of them, by a steady and frustrating two day lead.

The Aces were contending with other problems as well. Their vehicle was a modest
river-suitable powerboat, but it could only carry so much fuel and they had to watch
their supplies. The craft was old, and he motor needed constant work to keep going.
The heat was oppressive, and in places, for all the enormity of the river system, the
long dry spell had left the rivers shallow enough to be difficult and dangerous to pass.
Their pilot and translator, both locals, both maintained that it had been many years
since there had been so little rain, or since the rivers had been so low.

To the dismay of the Aces, they came to a point where a significant secondary river,
a tributary of the tributary, came into the stream, and both the river on which they
were travelling and the other river opened in the general direction of where they had
deduced Jurgensen to be going. They had no way to know which river was the
one on which Jurgensen had gone, and if they picked the wrong one any chance of
catching up with their enemy would be lost, he would get so far ahead that he would
be able to reach whatever his goal might be and escape long before they could make
up the lost time. They had to make a choice...but which choice?

As it happened, the question was resolved for them, when they encountered a group
of people heading down the new tributary, a party of people fleeing a massacre. This
group consisted of survivors of a two different native tribal communities, as well as
some white river men, and they were running for their lives.

Though there were several barriers of dialect and language to overcome, the two
groups managed to converse in a halting mixture of Portuguese and native tongues,
and the Aces were able to get a general idea of what had happened upriver.

More or less, it appeared that someone had fallen upon a small community, using
heavy weaponry to kill enough of the locals to be able to steal their boats, some of
their supplies and tools, and what few boats they had not taken, they had destroyed.
The attack had been fast, ruthless, and efficient, with no quarter given and no mercy
for any, men, women, or children, white or native, and only a few survivors had
been able to make their way out and down river to seek safety.

The description was enough to convince Conners that they now knew which river
they needed to follow, though he could not guess why their foe might have done
what he appeared to have done. Now the Aces headed up the chosen river, making
as quick a time as they could in the fading hours of the day.

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Old 01-22-2013, 08:13 PM   #105
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Let us now take a closer look at the quarry of the chase, who was not so far away
from the Aces. Indeed, the course of the river turned back on itself more than once,
though he was about eighteen hours ahead of the Aces by the river, he was no more
than ten miles from them at that time overland, though the lack of roads and thick
jungle would have made an overland journey by night rather a daunting proposition
under the circumstances.

Jurgensen cursed to himself quietly at the necessity of stopping,
because he could almost taste his destination in the wind. He
knew he was close, closer than he had ever come in his previous
searches, but he also knew that he had little choice but to stop.
Traveling upriver by night would not permit him to spot the
landmarks that would indicate the last turn, it would be all too
easy to sail right past that last sub-tributary that would lead him
to his goal. Moreover, they lacked good lights or the other
equipment to make a night journey, it would be risky both in
terms of time and safety.

Again he cursed the misfortunes that seemed to be assailing him
of late, as success was so close. His craft had struck some hidden
obstruction in the unusually shallow river, and a hole had been
cut into the hull that had left their vessel beyond use. They had
been forced to liberate some small boats from a native village,
one of the few in the region, as well as what supplies they could
take, and in their haste he knew that some few of the locals had
been able to escape. He could only hope to be able to complete
his own work before they could bring additional difficulties.

In one way, he knew, the odds were in his favor. This region had
few people of any sort, it tended to be avoided by the indigenous
peoples out of a long-standing superstitious dread, and there had
been little to draw Europeans or Africans there in this part of the
vast jungle. What few of the latter
did come there tended
to pick up the dread from the locals, and did not linger.

It would likely require some time, therefore, for those escapees
to reach anyone else at all, much less bring in any sort of organized
response. This area was remote enough, in terms of practicalities
like access and distance, that such a response might even then be
long-delayed or half-hearted. Probably, Jurgensen mused, as he
lay in his makeshift sleeping roll, there was actually plenty of time.

No, Jurgensen assured himself, as he lay sleepless, looking
up at the stars, listening to the river flowing not far away, and the
sound of his men standing watch,
there’s nothing to worry
about. But...why can’t I stop worrying?

Something was nagging at him that would not let Jurgensen get
any sleep or any waking rest. It did not seem to be coming from
his psionic senses as such, or it if was, it was something so vague
and formless that he could not isolate it.

Maybe it’s just that I’m so close, Jurgensen thought to
maybe it’s just that I’m about to finally find that
damned city after looking for it for all these years.

Or maybe, Jurgensen pondered, still trying to put some basis
to his anxiety,
maybe it’s that there’s been such a damned run
of things going wrong lately, ever since Chicago...ever since HE
starting showing up...STOP IT!

Jurgensen forced aside the nervous fear that always accompanied
the thought of the man who had haunted his psychic dreams for
so long before he was ever born, and forced his mind to turn to
more practical matters. After all, he was now, or should be, less
than one day of travel from finally reaching his long-sought goal.

Jurgensen had been in this general area several times before, over
the course of the previous decades. His long effort to track down
the hidden Atlantean refuge that he had deduced existed from old
scraps of legends and stories had gone on for what seemed forever.

He had long known that it had to be somewhere in this
region, but he had never been able to narrow it down to closer
than a circle about fifty miles in diameter. He had come through
this very area at least once, but always he had missed the small
and all too well hidden side-tributary that he really needed. This
had been, he knew now, because he had been missing certain key
pieces of information that he had obtained in Chicago, he had
been looking for the wrong clues in slightly the wrong places.

His quest had taken him all over the world seeking information,
and to some very strange people and things as well. He still
shuddered at the memory of that...thing...that he had encountered
in the East Indies, a mystery that was still utterly unexplained.

The discovery that the information he had sought for so long had
been sitting in plain sight in a museum in Chicago had left him
in wonder, and a strange rueful frustration that it had taken so
very long for him to discover such an easily available source.
Now he had that knowledge, though, and added to what he knew
already, he knew where to find his goal.

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Old 01-22-2013, 08:52 PM   #106
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


So very close, so close he could almost taste it.

Oh, I suppose in theory I could still be wrong, Jurgensen
reminded himself as he lay there in the hot darkness.
But I
don't believe it for a second, not this time. I don't really doubt
that those coordinates are accurate. Just some few more miles
upriver, a few miles up a smaller river, and we're there. We
ought to reach it before midday tomorrow, if we start at dawn.

Jurgensen closed his eyes again, trying yet again to make himself
sleep, and it was then that another oddity finally crystallized in
his consciousness, one component of his nervousness. Normally
he would long since have recognized this, but in his current state
his mind was not as perceptive of details as it normally would be.

It’s too quiet, Jurgensen realized. I can hear our fire, the
river, my men...but there’s not enough sound of birds, or other
animal life. The whole jungle is too still, that’s part of what’s
been making me so blasted nervous!

Indeed, now that he thought about it, Jurgensen realized that he
had been noticing less and less animal life over the course of the
previous day of travel, perhaps even half a day before that, but
it had really been noticeable in the last day. It was not that there
had been no animal activity, there had certainly been
but not as much as there should have been in that warm, fertile
region, with plentiful plant life, fresh water, and shelter. The odd
dry year might account for some of that, but not enough.

That is very odd, very odd indeed, Jurgensen mused.

As anxious and nervous as Karl Jurgensen was just then, he would have been far
more so had he known that the Seven Aces were as close as they were. Unlike
him, they had been willing to risk a certain amount of night travel, since they had
their own vessel (old and shaky as is was) and had lights, they had not traveled
all night, but they had closed several hours of the time gap between them and the
man they had pursued all the way from Chicago.

Finally they had stopped, but like Jurgensen, many of them were too nervous and
worried and scared to readily sleep. Also like Karl Jurgensen, at least some of the
Aces had noticed to strange lack of local fauna.

“Damn, but it’s hot,” Charles Adams said, in the quiet darkness.
“Doesn’t it ever cool off in this place?!”

“We’re almost on the equator, Charlie,” Howard Lake said from
where he sat a short distance away, sipping a bottle of beer, one
of the few that were left of their meager supply. “I have heard
the locals say that this year is hotter and dryer than usual, though.”

“Maybe that’s why we ain’t seen no animals,” Sam Cray said.

“Noticed that, did you?” Lake said with a sigh as he finished
the beer. “It’s not normal. Our pilot and our translator both
think it’s something spooky, it isn’t natural for the jungle to
be this lifeless.”

“Are they right?” Adams asked.

“You’re asking me?” Lake said. “I’ve read a lot about this jungle,
especially after I knew we were coming here, but reading a book
is no substitute for living in a place. Our translator grew up not
too far from here, and our pilot’s been working these rivers his
whole adult life. If they say it’s unnatural, I’ll take their word for
it. My common sense says they’re right, anyway. There’s a lot
of food here for animals, all kinds of plants, trees, bushes, there
should be a lot of creatures eating them and that would make for
a lot of prey for the meat eaters. But we’ve seen and heard less
and less for days now.”

“Even the rivers are strange,” Andre, their pilot said, sitting down
with the men. “There are not as many fish here as there should be,
not by a very long way. The waters are as clean as they ever are,
the river should be full of fish, snakes, other things...yet it is not.”

Adams pondered that for a moment. He was impressed by Andre,
and like Lake he was inclined to trust his judgement. Of course,
Adams was sure that ‘Andre’ was not his real name, and he knew
better than to ask why it was that the Brazilian spoke all but perfect
English, or how it came about that Robert McLaird could call on
his services. Likewise, ‘Andre’ had carefully avoided asking about
the business or backgrounds of his passengers.

In their line of work, it was just as important to know when not
to ask a question, and what questions not to ask, as it was to know
the right questions to ask and to whom to address such questions.

“Have you been in this particular area before?” Adams asked.

“Not this particular stream,” Andre said. “But I’ve been close to
this area many times, and it was never like this. I can’t say exactly
what I mean, though. There’s just

Adams would like to have been able to dismiss that, but he could
not. On some level, he knew what their pilot meant. On some
level, something instinctive, he had to admit that he sensed the same
thing, the same underlying sense something ‘not right’.

But what was it? Adams could see nothing, hear nothing, think of
nothing that would account for his feeling, other than the odd quiet
of the night, the absence of animal life, which did not seem enough.

What was it that both Jurgensen and some of the Aces felt? Why was the very jungle
itself so quiet and empty in that remote area? We shall see.

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Old 01-22-2013, 10:26 PM   #107
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Let us take a closer look at one of our parties, in the midmorning hours of the day
after our previous evening.

The air was still, and hot, even by the standards of the Amazon
Basin, and the only saving grace was the fact that the thick overhead
canopy prevented the blazing sunlight from reaching the ground.
Under the shade of the canopy, Jurgensen and his men worked
their way through the thick growth, making their way toward their
destination, which they felt sure was now very close at hand.

The original accounts all spoke of a river running directly through
the settlement they sought, and that also matched the story from
the sailor who had apparently seen the place. However, things
could and did change, and Jurgensen had concluded that the path
of the river had shifted somewhat. His calculations suggested
that the best way to reach their goal was to leave the river slightly
down stream from the site, and work their way overland.

At first there had been little sign of anything to support his idea,
but as the hours passed and they cut their way through, they began
to see definite signs of human activity. The further they went,
the more such traces they discovered, and the traces were things
like worked stone, polished rock, pathways and paved trails, more
and more as they went. The further they went, the greater the
excitement felt by Jurgensen, who had sought this place for so
long and with such effort.

It was at that point that one of his men, taking the forward point,
called back in tones of excitement, then sudden fear. Jurgensen
came forward, and immediately saw why his scout had been so
startled, and why that surprise had been followed on by dismay.

There was a clearing, or so it appeared at first glance. There was
a gap, anyway, in the thick foliage, an area about twenty meters
in diameter in which no trees and little brush grew. In the hot
bright Brazilian sun, the contents of that clearing were all too
visible. Space about three meters apart in rows of ten, were some
thirty tall wooden posts, about half again as tall as a tall man.

Attached to each post was a human skeleton, the bones bound
together by fine strands of some unknown fiber, carefully and
precisely arranged in anatomically accurate precision. Those
bleached dry bones were of all sizes, and closer examination of
a few showed that both sexes were present, and all ages.

Curses and fearful mutterings rose amid his men, and even the
iron callous soul of Jurgensen was shaken by this macabre sight.

At just about that time, back at the river, the two men Jurgensen had left to watch
over their boats were looking back and forth from the river to the jungle wall on
either side, trying to stave off the mixture of boredom and nervousness that was
in them. These two were far from the best men ever to work for Karl Jurgensen,
it would be true enough to say that they were neither paying proper attention to the
watch, nor as alert to their surroundings as they should have been.

These facts might help to explain what happened next, though in truth, it might
not have made much difference if they had been on guard. After all, when the
Aces came upon them, the guards were outnumbered, outweaponed, and the Aces
came at them from both sides. Even without the element of surprise, the outcome
would likely have been the same.

Still, the Aces would certainly admit that having the element of surprise was nice.

The guards were taken alive, mostly because Conners wanted prisoners to interrogate.
Again, these were not the best men Jurgensen had ever employed, and they quickly
decided that the better part of valor was discretion, when faced with over a dozen
very heavily armed men, men displaying no sign of a sense of humor. What they
knew, they told, but what they knew proved to be little enough other than at the level
of the immediate situation. They were employees, nothing more, hired muscle, more
or less, and Jurgensen had not told them much beyond what they needed to know.

Still, what they did know about the immediate situation was quite useful.


Last edited by Johnny1A.2; 01-22-2013 at 10:32 PM.
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Old 01-24-2013, 10:10 PM   #108
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Let us take a closer look at events, as experienced by Karl Jurgensen on that day.

Jurgensen was torn between a state of anxious exhaustion, still
dogged by a fear that the discovery of the mounted skeletal
remains had only exacerbated, and also a state of something
oddly close to exaltation. What he was now approaching was,
after all, the culmination of an effort and a search going back
many decades, the product of what seemed an endless labor.

It had taken some effort, a mix of promises, threats, and fast
talk, to persuade some of his hired personnel to keep going.
Even those of his party who were his personal men had been
badly shaken, and on some level Jurgensen did not blame
them, though he did not care, either. As long as they did not
balk at carrying out his orders, he was content for the moment.

He was still trying to figure out the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ of the
skeletons, though. It was not the sort of work that was typical
of any of the natives of the region, or rather of the natives of
the surrounding regions, since this one was mostly unpeopled.
While there were certainly some brutal and savage peoples in
the Amazon Basin, even in 1925, by no means was this as
common as legend made it, nor was that particular sort
of display particularly associated with the peoples the region.

Further, examination of the bodies had revealed oddities. The
fibrous material used to hold the bodies to the posts, and to
bind the bones together, had not been anything Jurgensen was
familiar with. It seemed unlike anything Jurgensen thought
might be obtained in the jungle from natural products, but it
was also not a modern synthetic or anything he recognized,
either. Further, the material had been improbably strong and
durable, they had attempted to cut a piece of it and dulled one
of their knives in the process before finally succeeding.

Jurgensen had also noticed that the bodies were covered in old
dust and other detritus, as if they had been hanging there for
a long time. Yet the material in their bindings seemed to be
undamaged, and there were no traces of people anywhere near
to explain how it might be replaced or maintained. Further,
the clearing in which the bodies had been left had been oddly
empty of trees and plant life, but there had been no sign of any
activity to maintain such a state.

Most of his mind, though, was not on that but on what awaited
him. When they finally reached the stone wall itself, Jurgensen
had all but shouted in exultation. They had found the wall in
the jungle, four times the height of the tallest man in the party,
made of thick blocks of heavy stone, carefully carved so as to
interlock for tremendous strength. By a visual estimation, the
stone blocks probably massed at least a ton each, Jurgensen
believed, and they were polished to a marvelous smoothness.

The overgrowth against the wall was thick, Jurgensen was sure
that one might have been able to walk a few meters from the
wall and not even realize that it was present. One they had
found it, they followed along the wall, cutting their way as
they did, and Jurgensen noted that the wall remained intact,
there were no openings, no collapsed areas, even though he
was sure that wall dated back to before recorded history.

The top of the wall was rough, there were places visible on
the upper edge where some of the stone had crumbled, but
overall the wall was in a marvelous state of repair. Though
this was frustrating for Jurgensen, who sought to get inside
as quickly as he could, it was also a source of hope. If the
outer wall was as intact as it appeared to be, it boded well
for the contents and the esoteric knowledge he sought.

At last, though, they did come to a place where the wall was
broken, a huge section crumbled out. The reason was easy
to see: a brackish stretch of water marked the former path of
a branch of the river, which had undercut the ground beneath
the stone wall. Undermined, even that marvel of masonry
had been unable to maintain its shape and strength.

Inside, they found what had once clearly been a substantial and
well-equipped settlement, large enough to house hundreds of
people in comfort. There were many stone buildings still in
place, in various states of decay, as well as weed-choked spaces
where Jurgensen was sure there had once been timber buildings.

A brackish, stagnant channel ran through the midst of the entire
complex, the remains of what had once been the river that now
flowed a few miles away. Jurgensen suspected that the entire
area was probably criss-crossed by such channels, that the river
moved back and forth between. One branch would silt up, and
the river would shift into a different path.

The entire complex was organized around a central stone ‘plaza’,
or so Jurgensen decided to call it, paved with smoothly polished
blocks of colored stones of various shades and shapes. Some of
the paving stones were gone, others broken or upended, but the
plaza remained visually pleasing, even so, symmetrical and with
a balance of both shape and color.

“This can’t have been abandoned for thousands of years,”
one of his personal men whispered beside him. “It should all
be totally overgrown, covered, but it’s not. This place has been
empty for years, maybe decades, it
can’t be millennia! This
is a jungle, this should all be covered, decayed, broken, the rock
could not keep the jungle back unless someone maintained it!”

Part of Jurgensen could not disagree, the place appeared to be
far too good a repair to be what he was sure it was. Yet
he had no doubt that he was in the right place.

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Old 01-24-2013, 10:44 PM   #109
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Jurgensen could not explain the state of repair of the complex,
but he had no remaining doubt that he was in the place he had
sought so long. There could be little doubt as he looked at the
structures, because their architecture, their design, everything
about them, was

Jurgensen was familiar with Atlantean architecture, writing,
he was one of the most expert men in the modern world on the
subject of that long-lost world-wide civilization. Indeed, from
the Unity he had received telepathic instruction that included
memories of that age, images and sounds, he knew
that he was looking at Atlantean structures, Atlantean design,
it was distinctive and not entirely like anything in the modern
world. From the spiraled columns to the intricate patterns of
color in the stone itself, the carvings, all of it told a tale.

The plaza ran from east to west, along the stagnant remnant of
the river. At one time, Jurgensen recognized, the settlement
had been present on both sides of the river, which had been
artificially channeled by heavy stone blocks. At the western
end of the plaza was the largest single structure in the ruins.

When his eyes fell on this structure, Jurgensen felt his heart
begin to race, because he recognized its purpose from its locale
and its architecture. If the ancient library and repository that
he had sought for so long still existed, it was there he would
find it. Jurgensen swallowed, and began heading that way.

Even as Karl Jurgensen was leading his party toward the largest of the surviving
buildings, another party was making their way through the jungle not far away,
following the track of the first group. The Seven Aces found relatively little
difficulty in following the track, Jurgensen had been in a hurry and done less to
hide the evidence of his presence than he might otherwise have done. They also
had the advantage of having interrogated the captives, giving them some idea of
what Jurgensen was trying to do.

The Aces had closed to time gap by hard travel, especially after discovered the
foundered wreckage of the boat Jurgensen had been using, and the remains of
the village he had attacked. Knowing they were on the right track, Conners and
his men had pressed their motor and boat to the limit, taking considerable risks
in the relatively shallow river, and closed the gap to within a few hours.

(Jurgensen had lost a great deal of time with the foundering of his original craft
and the subsequent effort to steal the boats he had used to complete his voyage.)

The Aces were on the lookout for traps or other threats as they followed the trail
of their quarry, but they encountered none. In due time, they found their way to
the clearing with the skeletons, reacting with the same shock and considerably
greater horror than had Jurgensen and his callous men.

They had the advantage of the presence of their translator, a man of mixed native
and Portuguese descent. He had been born and grown up not too far from that
region, and was well aware of the various local legends and taboos that kept most
people out of the area. He had already cautioned his employers that the legends
were reinforced by the fact that many of the daring young men (and sometimes
young women) who entered that area out of curiosity or bravado did not return.

When they found the skeletons, the Aces were able to ascertain that at least a
few of the remains were from tribes or communities familiar to their translator,
based on few remains of the garments that still hung on the skeletons.

After that, Aces continued to advance along the trail, but with an even greater
degree of caution. What had seemed like superstition no longer seemed quite
so harmless, after seeing that strange assemblage of the dead.

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Old 02-10-2013, 10:34 PM   #110
Join Date: Dec 2008
Default Re: The First Interbellum (1918-1939)


Even as Nathaniel Conners and his men were advancing toward the ruins of the
ancient settlement, Jurgensen and his party were exploring the ruins, and especially
the enormous structure that dominated one end of the ancient compound.

The ancient ruin retained a recognizable shape, even after the passage of thousands
of years. Laid out in an approximate rectangle, running east to west, the compound
was dominated on the western end by an immense stone structure, covering a full
quarter of the land area of the settlement. This structure was mostly intact, defying
the elements and the passage of millennia, though it had certainly was not in truly
pristine condition. It was not a tall building, rising no more than fifteen meters or
so above the ground, but it covered over a hectare of ground.

The heavy stone construction was similar to that of the wall around the compound,
but of heavier, denser stone, cut into smaller blocks. This stone, like that of wall,
was cut into blocks that interlocked for strength. The entire structure was built to
endure, to protect the contents within against threats natural and artificial. Parts
of the structure were now overgrown with vines and growth, but not so much so as
one would have reasonably expected, given its age and long period of abandonment.

Jurgensen knew, he knew, that this was the goal of his long search, the ancient and
vast library referred to in the scraps of myth and legend that he had studied. What
he did not know, could not know, was whether it still housed the treasures he had
so avidly sought, or how well they had endured if they remained inside.

“Sir,” one of his men said in Swedish-accented German, “we have
searched the perimeter of the building, and we have found several
doors. Unfortunately, they all appear to have been collapsed.”


“Yes, sir,” the mercenary nodded. “It looks to be deliberate, there
are large,
very large, stone blocks filling the interior beyond
each door. It looks like they slid into place from above, and they
are huge. I would estimate that they weigh at least fifteen tons or
more. Behind the main entrance on the east side there is a block
of rock that measures at least thirty feet wide and twelve feet high,
we don’t know how much more than that because the block is
larger than the doorway we are observing it through.”

“No windows or other openings?”

“None that we could observe, sir,” the man said. “It appears that
the builders of this place had security in mind when they made it.
I have seen bank vaults that were less solidly constructed.”

Jurgensen was unsurprised. He himself had seen the enormous
block of hard stone that sealed off what he took to be the primary
entrance. This entrance, at the center of the eastern side of the
building, had been at the top of a set of stone stairs and framed
by spiraled columns in the Atlantean style. It was ornate, with a
stone frame carved in the likeness of flowers, trees, and birds,
and there were gaps where Jurgensen suspected gemstones to
have once glittered, though any such gems were now long gone.

Jurgensen knew enough of Atlantean architecture to feel certain
that at one time, heavy wooden doors would have hung in that
opening, but any such timber was long gone. The door was now
open, but just a hand span into the doorway was an immense
wall of rock, the face of a cube or block of rock that had dropped
into place in the past to cut off all access.

Jurgensen was torn by frustration and worry and excitement. It
was late in the day now, the sun was dropping fast to the west,
and they did not have enough personnel or the right equipment
to try to dig their way through the blockage.

Still, there
was another possibility, Jurgensen knew.

As Jurgensen was pondering his options in the fading afternoon light, there were
others not so far away considering what their next move should be, as well. It
was at just about that time that Conners and his men reached the outer wall of the
old compound, marveling as Jurgensen had done before at the construction and
the preservation of the ancient masonry.

They now had also drawn close enough to hear, in the distance, the voices of the
men with Jurgensen. They had reached the point where decisions had to be made.

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