Valley of Fear Chapter 4. Bones

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Chapter 4. Bones

“Come in,” Clark motioned with his hand to the inside of a large office with topographical maps framed on two of the big walls, and a large desk at one end, piled high with folders. A table by a large window was a miniature monument to an earlier age in the area.

Professor Ng looked it over, and took out a laser pointer.

“Three-guardians, Bald, Whitewater canyon complex.” Ng shined the laser on the diorama, naming off the peaks and valleys. “This model is of this area.”

“Yes, you have looked at a map once or twice, professor.” Clark nodded. “But there has been a change that is not on that model.”

“What is that?”

“As for what it looks like, I don’t know.” Clark answered. “Not yet. That is why I asked for you all to come here. First of all, your lives were in danger.”

“First?” Andre asked. “How did you even know we were out there?”

“Well, young warrior, sit down in that chair right there” Clark pointed. “And let me teach you how it’s done.”

They all sat and the tribal elder walked to the end of the office and tapped a wall that silently opened to reveal a small alcove with a bar on one side and computer controls on another.

“Each of you are over the drinking age, is there anything you would like?” Clark asked and took count of the requests, serving the instructor and the students before sitting down himself with a tumbler glass of a dark amber fluid.

“A little later, I will go on a vision quest, this will help.” Clark nodded. “Anyone who wishes to join me, let me explain the situation at hand.”

Picking up some broken bones, he began to explain.

“Here, this is a leg-bone of an eagle, the claw of a large bear, skull of a raven and the jawbone of a lion, a leg bone of a coyote.” He held up the claw. “This has been DNA tested for age. This claw came from a short-faced bear, the jawbone still also has trace in the teeth, but I didn’t want to subject the spirit to the insult of the white-man technology. But, the shape and size is that of the American Cave Lion.”

“Clark, that is all interesting. But what does that have to do with us?” The Professor asked.

“Well, please notice, something broke all the bones. These all contained the spirits of selected ancestors.” Carl said quietly. “You see, this tribe has been given the Covenant to care for all these lands by Quilxka Nupika, the Supreme Creator. After the Creator trapped Monster of the Mountain under the earth.”

He took a long sniff of his iced drink.

“In the days before our times, the Kootenai river flowed into Columbia lake, a large monster from the sea made trouble in Columbia lake. The Monster led the Bear, Eagle and Fox on a merry chase around the mountains until the Chief of the Animals, a giant pushed over a mountain top and blocked the southern entrance into the lake by the Kootenai river. The gods trapped the monster of the sea under a mountain, hidden away from all of humanity forever. Using only the wood from an immortal tree and holy stones with sacred writing on them.”

Taking another drink, he took a breath.

“Someone broke the seal of the immortal wood. The stones have gone missing, the monster is loose and that power has broken the bones of my ancestors. Bones that my passed down from father to son since before the writing of the history of the world.” Clark said as he looked over the top of the glass, contemplating the fluid that swirled around the ice cubes. “In this glass is rye whiskey, it was found in a cabin in California. The collection of the bottles were sold at auction. It is old, over a hundred-years.”

They looked at him, listening.

“I never drink it, but I like the smell.” He smiled, then frowned. “In any event. Something has happened, that has not been foreseen.”

Doctor Clark gave a heavy sigh and put his glass down.

“The monster has escaped.”

“Doctor.” Professor Ng said slowly. “These are legends, but I know that legends all have seed of truth. What is the monster?”

“It came from the sea, according to legend. But in my point of view? It falls into a few categories.”

He stood up and walked over to the diorama.

“First, it could have been no more than an earthquake or a series of earthquakes that formed the Rockies. Second, it could be something volcanic, possibly related to the first, but with lethal gasses, it could kill without being seen.”

“But Doctor,” Gil asked. “There are no volcanos for hundreds of miles of here.”

“Correct. That brings me to the third part. It could be something more metaphysical. A true demon.” Clark said. “Something with a long life, something that can control or kill animals. The beasts of the forest knew this and left, en mass.”

“Yes, we witnessed at least part of that.” Reedah shook her head. “It was the most amazing thing I ever saw.”

“It won’t be the last time you say that.” Clark said.

“And fifth, there is one more thing.” He paused. “There is a possibility that what was buried so long ago is alien. Or perhaps, alien technology.”

“Where would this be buried?”

“No one knows. My grandfather’s father died at the hands of the French soldiers before he passed on the knowledge to his son. I have the bones, but only a vague knowledge where the cave of the monster is. I only know that at least one of the stones that is set in the immortal wood is what my father called Sky-Stone.”

The students looked at each other.

“Iron meteorite.” Andre said.

“I agree.” Professor Ng said.

“If you have a ferrous metal geometric shape in an insulator.” Gil said to Andre and Reedah.

“Induced power can set up a magnetic field.” Reedah whispered back.

“Magnetic and electric dead zone, if they set the stones with the same stones everywhere inside, they could make a kind of Faraday Cage.” Andre said.

“But fragile. Or in the words of those who believe.” Clark looked from one to the other. “Sacred.”

“So someone broke the cage, and what is immortal wood?” Reedah asked.

“Yes, and the world has no clue what has awakened.” Clark answered grimly.

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Valley of Fear Chapter 3. A Meeting

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Chapter 3. A Meeting

Standing in the bright early afternoon sunshine on the vista point when a trophy class condition WWII era Willy’s MB drove up and pulled into the parking stall next to the students and the professor.

“Who is in charge?” The dark eyes glinted with high intelligence and a kindly turn to his lips, it was obvious he was on a mission.

“I am, I am professor Ng.” And he shook hands with the new arrival.

“I’m Richard Aikin, my grandfather said you would be here.” Richard smiled as he shook the Professor’s hand.

“He…” The Professor’s eyes opened wide. “Who is your grandfather? Do I know him?”

“No, but, in fairness, he did not name you, but you are the only group with an Asian teacher with two white students and a black female student here.” Richard looked around. “And you are the only ones here, for that matter.”

Richard pulled his ear and laughed.

“In any event, when your experiment comes to an end, he invited you to follow me up the hill to the next valley, where my family lives.”

“How did your grandfather know we were here?” The Professor asked.

“I don’t know, I know that when he says something like that, I do it straight away. He asked me to bring you to the house, so, please, accept the invitation.” Richard nodded. “Grampa does not invite people in general. Outside people especially, but he wants to talk to you.”

“Another fifteen minutes, we have three quad-copters out in the valley, scanning the area for wildlife.” Gil said as he worked the controls, watching the video display on his laptop.

“I don’t think you will find any animals in the area, there is something, that Grampa says, has not happened since the old times.” Richard told the Professor.

“What does that mean?” Professor Ng asked.

“I don’t know, just when Grampa says something, it is just best to do it.” Richard nodded.

“Professor, infrared is not picking up anything along the river, there are normally at least some fresh scat or other animal waste that I can pick up, even during the day, but nothing.” Reedah growled at the display, flipping between screen resolutions. “White-hot, black-hot. There are no hot points where elk, deer or a bear have taken a dump.”

“Well, bring it back. Gil, you too.” The Professor instructed the doctor-in-training Gil.

“I am closing in on something odd. It looks like fire damage on a mountainside. It’s all blackened.” Andre interrupted the discussions.

“I’m zooming in on the area. It looks like polished rock.” Andre reported as the quad-copter sailed over the treetops at a thousand-foot altitude. “I can get to it in a couple of minutes.”

“Professor, I don’t want to pressure you, but Grampa is waiting.” Richard looked at his watch.

“Andre, please recover your toy, more important things are requiring our attention, we can return tomorrow.”

“Yes, professor.” Andre sounded crestfallen, he was enjoying the images and the virtual tour of the valley with his hands at the controls. Pressing two buttons, he locked the camera on the glass-like surface of what the GPS listed as Misty Mountain before returning.

The camera recorded, even though Andre missed on his screen, movement along the ground. Recorded on the removable memory in UHD (Ultra High Definition), Andre would not see what he captured for two-weeks as he studied each previous frame with meticulous detail.

The three students brought the survey equipment back to the cars, following GPS planned routes and landed them on the pavement.

“That was the damnedest thing to see.” Richard laughed. “So you kids pay a hundred-kilobucks a year to the INUTS University and you get to fly these toys?”

“A hundred-what?” Gil asked.

“Hundred-thousand dollars.” Richard defined the term.

They strapped the remote-controlled vehicles down to the top of their utility vehicle and clambered inside.

“Professor, do you think it’s safe to follow someone we don’t know?” Reedah asked. “We could go in there and we could be lost.”

Professor Ng smiled.

“I know him, seen him around with the police. He’s a detective. Sargent, I think.” The Professor nodded.

“Then why did he introduce himself?” Gil asked.

“I don’t know him personally, Mr. Van Zant, I know who he is from his lectures on security and previous investigations he has performed in the area.” The Professor tone was as a father explaining to a child missing a point.

“Besides, I think I know who Grampa might be. He used to work as a professor at the university until he retired five years ago.” The salt-and-pepper head of hair nodded.

“He would be Doctor Clark Johnson, unless I miss my guess.” The Professor looked around. “He is the local expert on pre-Columbian history.”

They drove up the highway and pulled up to large wrought-iron gates that opened when Richard pressed his remote control, pulling over immediately inside the gates to make sure the following students and their leader made it through. Nodding at the driving Professor.

Waving at them, Richard pressed on the throttle and pulled out in front of them again.

The small convoy pulled into a parking area of a two-story office building,  built as if it were part of the earth itself, buried half-into the hillside and a sod-roof, LED lighting and quadruple glazed windows, solar panels hidden on the tops of the outbuildings, the compound of offices used less energy than most single-family dwellings.

Completely owned and operated under the control of the Kootenay Tribe, standing in the main door, only slightly shorter than Richard, but powerfully built.

“Professor Ng?” He walked up to the Asian instructor, smiling and held out an open hand to shake. “I’m Doctor Clark Johnson.”

Valley of Fear Chapter 2. University Lab

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Chapter 2. University Lab

“Professor, all the remote cameras we put out have taken precisely zero night time images.” Gil sighed as he clicked through the computer files. “Day time images are the same way. Nothing is triggering the equipment.”

“Are you connected?” Professor Ng asked. “Perhaps your using IP4 instead of IP6 addressing?”

“Yes, Professor, I sent an acknowledge signal, I can get a battery check, I can turn it on and scan the area, but there is nothing to pick up.”

“Check the other camera stations.” The long salt-and-pepper hair swayed with his nod. “See there are no images in any of the cameras.”

“Yes, Professor.”

The graduate student clicked through the different files, swearing when he could not remember the different passwords and looking them up.

“Professor Ng? There are images in camera’s in region 3-A and 3-C and three-D. 3-B has no images, Regions 1 and 2, all regions are without images. It is like a wildlife desert, nothing for the camera’s to capture. There has been nothing for a few days, at least, I’m checking dates now.”

“Call Andre, find where he’s at. Have him get in touch with the rest of the team and prepare for a drone for a flyover. After last field trip, this will be the thing I will authorize, unless I can get the university to pay for bodyguards, pair of armed hunting guides and a National Guard helicopter.”

Gil chuckled as he dialed the team captain of the month and started the files for video they could analyzed later.

Reedah Wilson walked in while Gil spoke to Andre on the phone, Gil informed Andre that she arrived and broke the connection.

Explaining the situation to Reedah, she pulled at her ear for a moment. A tell she had when she was thinking something over.

“I have a friend that is a Ranger in the area. I’ll call him and see if there are any strange things they have noticed in the areas we are looking at.”

“Ooh! Reedah. An old flame?” Andre entered the room, putting away his mobile phone.

“I don’t do men, I’ve told you.” She punched Andre in the shoulder.

“Well, exclusively.” She added.

Heads together, they prepared three remote-controlled vehicles to lift off from the back of the roof of the research truck, specially fitted with a rack to carry the extended range quad-copter powered drones. Cameras fitted to the undersides, tops and tested. Specially fitted with UV and IR cameras, they planned to see as many things they could.

“How late are we going to stay out?”

“Only about an hour, we will bring them back about dusk and get back here.” Andre looked at them, “I do not want to stay out there after dark. Something has chased the animals out of the valley, I don’t want to find out what it is the hard way.”

“What do you think it is?” Gil asked, walking up with print-outs of authorization signatures for the professor.

“I don’t know, could be volcanic off-gassing or something. I saw something like that in Yellowstone when I was a kid, they said it was a gas eruption and was driving the wildlife out of the area.” Andre said.

“There is no volcanic activity this far north.” Reedah told him. “You are stretching that theory a lot.”

“Well, let’s overfly the area with these two toys and see what we can see and record it all.

Slipping fingernail-sized chips into the removable media slot and snapped the cap over the chips, locking them into place.

“These are the largest capacity on the market and I broke the seal on them for our use.” Gil said. “We have plenty of recording space.”

“Why are we using memory stick tech when we can network-send the information back to the lab?” Reedah asked.

“Signals get messed up, corrupted. This is just a cover to prevent any loss.”

“Good idea.” Professor Ng said as he walked in again. “Gil, do you have the request paper..Oh good. Thank you.” The Professor said, taking them from the graduate student. “We head out in ten-minutes. We are not leaving the black top, and we are keeping the engines running. If, in the unlikely event there is a gas in the valley, I do not want to wait around, we will launch and then head up to the nearest paved high-point.”

“Yes Professor.” The students said.

The team went to work. They were Idaho’s Natural University of Technical Studies.

Idaho NUTS.

Awake Prologue:

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Prologue

The Running

Northern Idaho, fifty-kilometers south on I-95, he stepped out on the gravel of the shoulder. Hiking out of the forests, he knew he had his ancient Volvo somewhere in the area. Looking around, he was about a half-mile south of where he went in a dozen hours before.

It was a nice day in the northern panhandle to collect the data from the different stations that were placed around in the hundred-twenty thousand acre study zone, a fraction of the healing scar left the by the Great Fire of 1910, also called Devils Broom Fire. Five of the undergraduates had gone in, Bruce Kissenger was the first to come out of the hike. A few inches taller than the others, his stride had taken the toll on the others. Gil Van Zant, Andre Sondergeld, Reedah Wilson (herself a bit of a mountain goat.)and Doctor Ru’khu Ng, the oldest of the group that often show them up by out-walking them all.

Bruce could see the others catching up to him when he saw the chilling sight.

Wolves.

A lot of wolves, at least, he counted quickly on the undulating mass of grey and tails losing count. Fifty at least.

And they were coming up the path at full speed.

“RUN! Oh good God RUN!” Bruce waved at the team. “Behind you.”

Gil, bringing up the rear looked and turned, echoing Bruce’s warnings and the group began to run. The wolves were a mile off and running fast but making a direct line to the group. Caught out in the open like this, they would not stand a chance if the wolves surrounded them.

But three hikers carried a side-arm. If need, they could open fire. Bruce carried the heaviest, a foot-long barreled revolver chambered for the mighty Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum cartridge.

It was not a quick-draw gun by any stretch of the imagination and it took him nearly five seconds to draw it out of the holster that resided between his backpack and his lumbar region.

It was a poor weapon against a pack of wolves bent on an easy meal.

Fully loaded, the big wheel-gun only held five rounds, and reloading was not a lightning-speed effort.

Still, if he could get them to line up, he could take a pair of wolves with a single shot, perhaps twice that many.

The hysterical thought ran through his mind of a four-for-one shot.

But he still carried it with one chamber unloaded and hammer down. It was an old safety habit. Popping out a cartridge from his belt, he slid the bullet cartridge into the empty chamber as Reedah came up next to him, panting from running with the heavy backpack.

“I say drop our packs here. Where is your car?”

“Half-mile up that way.” He pointed. The wolves were less than a quarter-mile off and coming fast. “We turned left one rock too soon back there. Get that pistol of yours out.”

“Like what am I going to do with it. I have an officer’s model with a seven plus one. Gill has a longslide with nothing else, so we have the same number of shots. “ She looked at him and drew her small auto-loader.

Her math was correct, combined, they could shoot their weapons until empty and still did not match the numbers of the canis lupis irremotus that ran towards them.

“I,” Gil gasped struggling with his pistol and the holster. “Have never seen wolves chase humans and out in the open too!”

“Gil, we don’t have enough firepower to win this outright, maybe we can divert them. Professor Ng, what do we do?”

“Climb a tree!” The Professor pointed to one with low hanging branches.

“What about our backpacks?” Reedah asked as the professor sprinted past— without his pack and gun in hand. “Oh!”

The group made the tree when the wolves caught up — and ran past them in a full run.

“Look! They are tuck-tailed.” Gil pointed out. “Something has them spooked.”

“I don’t know what would spook a pack of wolves like that.” Andre said. “There is documentation that a pack can take down a full-sized moose or caribou.”

“Keep climbing.” The professor said, looking down the path. “Oh crap, keep climbing!”

“What?” Bruce asked. “What is it?”

“BEAR!” The Professor pointed. “LOTS of them!”

Down the path a dozen bears, golden-mantled in the sunlight and giant, ran up the path like a toothy tsunami, not making a sound other than the crashing through the brush as each tried to pass the other.

“UP! UP!” the humans began to shout at each other, the lead bear’s mass approaching a quarter-ton. The largest land predator in the lower forty-eight states, smaller than their coastal cousins. These were the apex predators of the area.

“I’m stuck!” Andre yelled. “Oh my god, help!” Andre yelled when the galloping group of grizzly bear closed the gap, a branch caught the loop of his belt on the back of his pants.

And followed the wolves, running past, followed by the mix of deer, a wolverine, and groups of smaller bear.

But no smoke in the distance.

“Professor, what is going on?” Bruce said as he tried to re-holster his horse-pistol. Succeeding on his third try.

“Bruce, can you stop waving that thing around, you’re making me nervous.” Gil said. “You brought that big ol’ thing, you should have brought the rest of the tank.”

“It would take care of anything I thought we might run across, including bear.”

“You could try.” Gil retorted. “Me, I would rather make a lot of noise with it and try to scare a bear off, unless you can shove it down the bears throat and pull the trigger.”

“With your little autoloader, you would need to…” Bruce was drawing a breath to continue the argument when the Professor interrupted.

“Enough. Seriously, enough.” The teacher shook his head while he climbed out of the tree. “We have more than we need to report just for that little episode.”

“What scares a freakin’ GRIZZLY?” Andre asked. “Not counting a whole village of them.”

“I, for one, am going to the car.” Reedah commented while she picked up her pack. “You all can stand around and discuss this, but I shot video with my phone.” She smiled and held up her Android phone. “Five minutes worth.”

The men looked at each other stupidly then picked up their backpacks and set off in Reedah’s wake, still arguing over what they just witnessed.