Based on the level of dust in the air, someone else had just recently driven to the site. Despite the heat, Peter rolled up the window. Such was the risk of driving in the desert. He would rather not be in the Jeep at all, but the call he got this morning could not be ignored. His first weekend away from the dig in months, Peter had wasted no time in hitting the town last night. He was little prepared to be shocked awake this morning by his phone buzzing with the sun having barely cleared the horizon. His irritation was quickly shelved when he heard the odd tone in Steph’s voice. She did not give much detail, but it was clear that something unexpected had been found. As much as she knew he had been looking forward to this time off, Steph thought Peter would be more angry if she did NOT call him. That alone was enough to peak his interest. As gung-ho as Steph could be, she would never interrupt some much-needed downtime unless it was important.
Peter had traveled the road to the dig so often that he saw more than just another section of desert. It felt like coming home. A newcomer would not even see a road, let alone recognize any landmarks that would distinguish this bit of land from any other in the region. Some of the familiar was obscured by the dust that was taking its time to settle. Heat distortion was already causing weird effects, despite it being early morning. This was going to be a hot one … even by desert standards. Suddenly the dust cloud cleared, as if someone had aimed a leaf blower at it. He could actually see the dig site now, though the haze gave it an underwater look. Beyond that … Peter slammed on the breaks, almost skidding out of control and raising another dust cloud. What the hell was THAT?! He turned of the motor for a second, and sat until his racing heart, and the new dust he had just kicked up, settled. It must be a distortion effect.
Nope. That was definitely worth Steph calling him back early. Peter’s pulse refused to slow, as the thrill of discovery ramped his heart up again. He had no idea what was going on here, nor what, if anything, it had to do with the dig, but “unexpected” was truly downplaying the strangeness of what he was seeing. Trust Steph to keep his interest peaked without actually TELLING him anything. He started the Jeep again. He couldn’t get to the camp fast enough now. Peter stared ahead, barely noticing his driving. Just yesterday the horizon had been unbroken except for a few rock formations, as it had been for countless days before. Now he was looking at this immense black … something … that could not possibly be there. Yet it clearly was. It was both awe-inspiring and ominous. Peter could barely wait to get closer to this … obelisk seemed the right term for the monstrosity.
Finally at the site, Peter was out of the Jeep almost before it stopped moving. There was frenetic activity all about, which was not unusual, but it was clear that the focus was definitely not on the normal daily activities. Steph was there almost immediately. “Nice parking job!” She said with a nervous laugh. This was not like her at all. She was obviously rattled.
Giving her a distracted hug, Peter said, “I don’t even know what to say right now.”
Steph shrugged. “I know what you mean. I went to bed late last night and all was as it should be. I wake up this morning, and …” her voice trailed off as she looked towards the obelisk.
“Has anyone been close to it yet?,” Peter asked, for several reasons hoping for a negative answer.
Steph laughed again. “Suddenly everyone is concerned for their own safety. I didn’t even have to warn Scully not to take precipitous action.” Lowering her voice, she soberly continued, “Even if we were inclined to investigate without you, our guests might have had something to say.”
Noticing the unexceptional sedan for the first time, Peter was a bit startled. It was definitely not the best vehicle for the terrain. The car was covered in dust, and would be lucky if that was the worst damage it would see. “Who are they?”
“They have government credentials, or so it seems. But I have never heard of the agency they claim to be from. All I know is they are very officious, and expect us to obey them like we were their children. Right now prudence seems best, but watch your temper Pete.” Even as she finished her warning, two unfamiliar gentleman approached. Their dress was as inappropriate to the surroundings as their car was. They definitely had the air of bureaucrats that had some power. If not for his curiosity about the obelisk, the mere sight of them would have had Peter’s hackles up.
The man in the lead, shorter and more solid than his companion, asked with a distinct hint of command, “You Peter Alden?”
The tone of his voice triggered Peter’s innate rebelliousness, and he felt a sarcastic answer at the back of his throat. Fortunately, the sight of the obelisk blackly standing there cooled his ire and he simply nodded in assent. “And you are … ?”
“I am the man who is about to change your life forever,” was the audacious reply.
TO BE CONTINUED (MAYBE) …