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The Unintended Consequences of Ophiuchus

©08 Levite
See Below

Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes
Hilo, Hawaii, USA
Last year

      "There's something in there."
      "I've seen something like that before. But never inside hot lava."
      "Where did it come from? How did it get in there?"
      They both looked up and followed the still flowing stream of molten pahoehoe lava breaking out from under its crust all the way back to the recently opened vent along Kilauea's eastern rift with their eyes.

      Dr. John Simpson sat calmly and listened to the report from his two volunteers. Over the years he had heard reports of all sorts of things turning up in active lava flows, but this was the first one that had actual video of the object. "I've got your field notes Sue. But we still need to clear up some things before I petition for a permit to disturb the field to dig it up." He nodded to them. "Go ahead and run it again."
      The tape started with the low rumble of the flow and their discussion of what was happening.
      The first volunteer pointed at the computer screen. "Then right here, it disappeared in the flow. We think it was underneath when the flow stopped. I marked the spot with the GPS like is in the report."
      Dr. Simpson nodded. "I saw the coordinates, Ted. Back up about a minute, to the clear picture of the object."
      "Yessir." Ted said and moved the mouse to back up the recording.
      "Did you ever see anything on the object?"
      The other volunteer shook her head. "Not really sir. And it wasn't even hot. I got a fix on it with the laser thermal twice. It ready about forty C both times."
      "I saw that in the tape. I can't explain that. It should have been reading equal to the surrounding material at that point."
      "About eleven hundred C."
      "Here it is sir." Ted said.
      "Start it, frame by frame."
      Ted did as he was told. The cylindrical shaped thing was now in the center of the screen.
      "Stop it. Enlarge the object until it pixelates, then back it off a notch."
      "Here's the screen capture that shows the laser on the obje...."
      "In a minute." Simpson said cutting Sue off. "There. Back it out, just a hair."
      Ted clicked the computer mouse once, then twice.
      "Good. Hold it. Pan left. A little more."
      "What is that?" Sue asked him as their eyes tried to make sense of the shapes on the side of the object.
      "Something I've seen before." Simpson said. "A long time ago."

SUNY, Buffalo NY
Field Research, Ubinas Volcano, Peru

      "I see it!" A very enthusiastic graduate student shouted to his professor.
      "I'm sure you do Johnny. Now. GET BACK!" Professor Sineas shouted over the low roar of the ongoing eruption. He was afraid the volcano would let loose another pycroclastic flow at any moment.
      "I can get it!"
      "NO!" Sineas shouted back. But it was already too late. Johnny was smacking a long stick against the edge of the molten lava. He was aiming at a round object caught in the molten rock.
      Panting and sweating heavily from the heat Simpson swatted and pried at the object even as the flow of liquid rock threatened to sweep the metalic thing down into the nearby ravine. With the stick he was using on fire he jabbed and pulled one last time, then again. Losing several inches of his tool in the process. Finally he shoved the rest of the branch into the flow just in front of the object and pushed with all he had. The object came loose and skittered across the ground.
      The object itself bounced twice, the first shook the remaining lava from it, setting the weeds and brush in the area ablaze. But by the time it landed after its second rebound, it was free of the hot rock and lay on the ground like it had always been there.
      John stood and stared at it until the flaming wood in his hand demanded to be released. He shook his overheated hands and turned his attention to his prize.
      Where the grass was burning a foot from the metal ball from the hot rock that had come away with it, the object itself was laying serenely on a cushion of bent canary grass fronds which seemed no worse for the experience.
      John looked at the ball. Then he kicked at the object carefully. The toe of his hiking boot was OK, so he extended his hand just above it to see how hot it was. He didn't feel anything so he touched it with the tip of one finger. It was actually cool to the touch.
      Then he picked it up. Where it should have instantly burned his hand to the bone after having spent however long buried in two thousand degree lava, it was no warmer than his camera had been after riding around in his shirt pocket.

      John had the presence of mind to realize that once he surrendered the object to the research assistant he would probably never see it again, so he aimed his 126 camera at it and snapped two quick pictures of the odd symbols that seemed to be part of the metal.
      Then he walked away from the active lava river toward the professor with the metal ball gleaming in his hand.

      John did get to see the ball one more time back in Buffalo. Just before a gentleman from a foundation he had never heard of signed it out for a comparative research project.
      Several members of the team and even the head of the department protested loudly, but to no avail. The chairman was overruled by the president of the university and several members of the board of trusties who ordered them to turn the object over as an academic version of professional courtesy.
      All John had left was his pictures.

Archaeological dig at Angkor Wat
Present Day

      "As you know the construction of the main temple to Vishnu over there was begun in about 1120 by the Western calendar. However, there were several holy sites in this area dating back much further than that. Some date from far back in prehistory." The tour guide said in carefully practiced English. "This area is one of the older sections. Some parts of this foundation were laid down three or four centuries BCE."
      In the back of the group a short man and a just slightly taller woman smiled at the guide and paused to take a picture of the ruins. Then as the tour began to move on to the next point of interest they dropped back and stepped around a stone wall out of site.
      "It should be there nearby." The woman said.
      "I agree. I remember placing it near the wall of the Serpent of Creation."
      They carefully stepped around a barricade and walked down the path used by the researchers.
      "Since Chaindria's was just found this one should be active." The man said as he stood and looked around carefully. "Much has changed."
      "Yes. But Chaindria, it was early, it weakened the signal." The woman said softly. "I do not sense Pailiasto."
      "We will. Soon." He turned and walked a bit further along the wall. "If only the volcano hadn't become so active for so long. Then we would still be on schedule."
      "Some even we can't control."
      The man "An unfortunate truth we have lived with forever." He stopped and stared for a moment. "It is over there."
      "Yes. Sense it now."
      They walked along the ancient crumbling wall and stopped.
      "Yes." The woman said. She looked around slowly. "It is OK."
      The man knelt and put his hands on the wall. "Much has changed indeed." Then ignoring the fact that this was a World Heritage Site he pulled a vine and several stones loose and dropped them to the ground, then he looked in the hole. "There it is." He said, then he pulled a few more stones loose with amazing ease for one so small and slightly built. "Got it." He said.
      The man pulled a long flat metal object from the niche it had been in for twenty five hundred years.
      "Good." The woman said. "It is again good to see this section Pailiasto."
      "Yes. It was always one of my favorites." He held the metal section between his hands and looked at the symbols on it. "We should go."

Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes
Hilo, Hawaii, USA
Present day

      "Dr. Simpson."
      "You have visitors."
      The elderly professor turned in his chair and nodded to his assistant with a smile. "Show them in."
      In a moment a nondescript and rather plain looking couple walked in.
      "Good day sir. I'm Paul Jones. This is my wife Nan." The man said.
      Simpson's smile had faded slowly as the couple walked into his office. "It can't be."
      "Excuse me sir?" The man said.
      "I remember you."
      "I don't...." The man began, then recognized the young man from forty years ago. "Yes. It was in Buffalo. When you came back from Peru."
      "But how?"
      "That, sir is a very story." The woman said. "But we are to collect here an artifact the students at Kilauea found."
      "How could you know that?" Simpson asked them.
      "Because the object is ours." The man said.
      "They. Call us." The woman added.
      "That was how you knew about the one from Peru."

      Simpson didn't argue anything they said to that point.
      There was no doubt in his mind that the man who had walked into the department chair's office so long ago and walked out again with the enigmatic metal ball he had rescued from another lava flow.
      Simpson had spent many hours trying to decipher the symbols he had photographed to no end. But they had become ingrained in his memory and had even made an appearance as a rather cryptic background on his academic web page.
      When his students returned to the lava flow after it cooled and dug out the object, he was able to compare the symbols on it to his memory of the other. The markings were of the same type, and many were the same symbols, yet several were different. The characters were obviously part of a larger set of meaningful representative runes.
      Over the years Simpson had kept his eye out for other representations of other symbols like the ones that had been on his ball. There had been a few from the Far East and even Norway, usually on ancient works of art, or copies of older works. But nothing had ever turned up like the ball until they found the cylinder in Hawaii.
      Now they were here to take it away from him too.

      "It's not here." Simpson said.
      The woman, Nan, looked up slightly and half closed her eyes.
      "I don't sense it." The man said.
      Nan was silent for a long minute. "I don't either. It isn't in this place."
      "Where did you send it?"
      "It's out for metallurgical analysis."
      Paul didn't miss a beat. "You cannot damage it. Even a laser won't cut it."
      Simpson laughed in spite of everything. "It came out of an active volcanic vent absolutely undamaged, so I'm not surprised." His chuckle subsided. "OK. You tell me where it came from. And for that matter, who you are, and I'll tell you where it went."
      "Revealing ourselves to you won't serve any purpose. We can find Chaindria's relic without your assistance. Even if it is not on this island." Nan said.
      "It's a big world."
      "Your testing is probably being done in Honolulu."
      "No." Simpson said. "It's not."
      Nan didn't seem to believe him. "Then where should you send it." It wasn't a question.
      Simpson just sat there.
      "We are not what we seem to be." Paul said.
      Simpson almost laughed again. "I figured that out when you walked in here looking exactly as you did forty years ago. That and you said the objects call to you, and I believed it."
      "What would you wish to know." Nan said.
      "How did you get them into a magma chamber and how did they survive?"
      "We sent them here." Nan answered.
      "I don't understand."
      Paul's answer was better. "They were sent here very long ago."

near "Barnard's Star"
in the constellation Ophiuchus
the date is meaningless

      "Chaindria launch successful. Eruption off schedule but anticipated. Have you developed the data of Pailiasto's reacquisition?"
      "Yes Supreme Observer. We recovered it as placed. The passage of their time is less than constant. Variables exist moreso than observed." Paul in another form answered.
      "Unexpected." The Supreme Observer said softly. "But intriguing. As were their cycles of years."
      "Yes." Nan in another form replied. "The existence of their entire world is so measured."
      "So we saw. Such is the case in this galaxy."
      "They even measured our progress through their universe in their years." Nan added.
      "I find it fascinating that they have assigned their time to us."
      "Yes, Supreme Observer."
      "Was it difficult for you to exist in time?"
      "No, Supreme Observer. However, it was confusing occasionally to keep the causation relationship within their parameters."
      "Yes. I would imagine."

Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes
Hilo, Hawaii, USA

      Simpson had heard a lot of stories in his years in the college environment. First as a student, then first graduate assistant professor and later as a full professor, and now as a semi-retired professor emeritus.
      He had had students bring in fraternity mascot goats that had 'ate their homework', then there was the guy who had actually subpoenaed a state trooper to testify in front of an academic board as to why he had missed the due date for a senior thesis. But the tale told by these two topped them all.
      "I'll believe you are some sort of modern age Merlin or Count St. Germain and time doesn't apply to you. But... Asking me to believe you planted that object on the molten surface of the Earth over four billion years ago is too much."
      "How else would it have ended up in the magma pocket under what is now Mauna Loa?"
      Simpson wasn't going to be put off. "I know volcanologists on this staff that would testify under oath that you had to have been up there that morning and planted it in the lava flow for us to find later."
      "And one of those scientists are you?" Nan asked.
      "No." Simpson answered immediately. "And the only reason I'll say no that is because of Peru."
      "Good." Paul replied. "It is true."
      "Where there is the object?" Nan asked him.
      "Out of the islands."
      "East or West?" Paul asked.
      Paul took a deep breath and sighed. "Very well. You ask. I shall answer."
      Simpson sat back and thought carefully about his first question.

Castlerigg Circle
Cumbria County, England, UK
Summer 1758

      Two classy individuals from the Premium Society stepped out of a carriage in the remote corner of England near the border with Scotland.
      "Please wait driver. We'll make it worth your trouble."
      "Yes mi'lord." The driver said almost too courtesy.
      The couple walked from the carriage parked in the middle of the lane not far from the estate complex of the land owner. The driver watched them for a few moments then he took a small flask from his coat pocket and had a drink. He'd seen old stone ruins before and this one held no curiosity for him.

      "Much has changed here. Not like the changes there will be at Ankor." Paul said thinking of the future.
      "No. Much difference." Nan said looking at their surroundings.
      "But we must get it. The changes to come are extreme and we risk discovery in a hundred years of their time." Paul commented as he looked around. "There." He nodded to a particularly large stone.
      "Yes. Where Pfstallen injured."
      "I warned him the roller was breaking." Paul said, then a moment of sadness crossed his face. "He didn't listen to anybody. It was the Celt in him."
      "To them was very long time."
      "To them." Paul said. "To us." He shook his head. "Can you sense it?"
      Nan stood quietly for a moment. "The other face of the stone."
      "Ahh. Yes. Outside the circle." Paul said. He walked around the stone and knelt on the ground. "I feel it now." He dug with a knife he had in his pocket.
      "Yes. Right here. I see it." He dug around the edge of the stone for another minute. "Hello Gaungchring." He said to a small slightly elongated cube of metal with its symbols along two sides.
      The metal box did not respond.

      The couple returned to the carriage and asked the driver to return them to their accommodation in town until they could go back to London to meet with the society.
      "We shall consider the historic attributes of this area in our report to the Trusties." Paul said to the driver.
      "We'd appreciate that, sir." The man answered them. He decided he'd toast the Society with the last of the liquor in his flask when he dropped them off.

Brush Creek
Near what was to become 'the Great Serpent Mound', Ohio
One thousand years ago

      "The serpent should uncoil this way, with the movement of the skies." The visiting medicine chief said to the old wise man of the tribe in the Lenape tongue.
      The old man nodded slowly, but did not speak.
      "I will place this totem of power for the right eye of the beast." He held out a large flat metal disc with markings in a line across it.
      Again the old man nodded.
      The visitor rose to his feet slowly and walked out into the early morning sun.
      "Halparess will be the one we have to steal later." Paul said to Nan. "It won't be easy to get it out of the museum. But Johnny helped." He paused. "Will help."
      She nodded as they walked through the wood smoke of the tribe's fires to the area along the creek where they were building the earthen symbol. "Variables."
      "Yes. They are the way of this world."
      Near a slight cliff along the creek he dug a small indentation in the ridge and buried the egg shaped metal object with its markings.
      Then in the tongue of the people he told them to uncoil their representation of the serpent of eternity with the rising sun in the east.

Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes
Hilo, Hawaii, USA

      "It is how we mark your history." Paul said.
      "By placing these objects on Earth then retrieving them?"
      "Yes. It is best." Nan said.
      "We observe the before and the after. And we see your world." Paul said.
      "From a star four light years away that you say is moving this way." Simpson said with no inflection at all to his voice.
      "To you."
      "I know, to you it is closer."
      Paul almost smiled. "Or further." He said. "It is where it is. The distance means nothing to us."
      "We are there, and here, and then. Time is yours. Not ours." Nan said.
      Simpson paused. "Now That, I understood."
      Paul nodded. "She does that for me also."

      Simpson sat and thought about everything. Then he tried to put his proposition into words. "I'll help you retrieve both of your objects. The one from Ohio and ours from Kilauea, if you will do something for me."
      "You have already joined us Johnny. Do you not remember?" Paul said using the diminutive from a lifetime ago.
      "You're right...."

SUNY, Buffalo NY

      "His credentials are signed by.... Everybody." The department chair said.
      Professor Sineas was less enthusiastic. "But we have scarcely begun to examine the article.
      "I can't stop them from taking it."
      Johnny Simpson shook his head and walked out of the chair's office. The man and his assistant that were to take their find away were waiting in the reception area. Johnny stopped and looked at them.
      "Can I help you?" The man said to him.
      "When I get out of here. I'd like to come work for you." Johnny said.
      "Like that we will." The assistant said.
      "Yes. I believe that would be most excellent to our overall understanding."
      "Thank you." Johnny said. "Let me know."
      "We have Johnny." The woman said.
      "She means, we will." The gentleman added.
      Johnny looked at them and shrugged. "OK. That's the best offer I've had."

Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes
Hilo, Hawaii, USA

      "We did not intend for our location in the cosmos to influence the history of your planet. We only meant to observe." Paul said.
      "So you had to change the Zodiac. Remove the thirteenth sign under the Lunar Cycle."
      "We, changed, no." Nan said.
      Paul shrugged. "Not directly. Ptolemy and others did. Your calendar is twelve divisions, so it was not difficult to convince them to ignore our location in your heavens."
      "Soon to you, we will be out of the Serpent-Man sign." Nan added carefully.
      "Ophiuchus," Paul added.
      "If you are really from around Barnard's star. That's true." Simpson said.
      "Not around." Nan added.
      Paul's lips got tight. "That is the other thing you may not believe."
      "Try me." Simpson said. He thought he was beyond his maximum tolerance point on the suspension of disbelief scale.
      "The star you have named after Edward Barnard is not a star." Paul said.
      "It is us."
      "You would call it 'our ship.'"
      Simpson had been wrong about his point on the scale. "The star in these pictures...." He gestured to an animated series of images of the star showing it moving dramatically against the field of background stars.
      "It is true. You are there. With us." Nan said.
      Simpson shook his head. "I'm inside our time. Not yours."
      Paul looked at him with knowing eyes. "Not totally."
      "Where is Chaindria?"
      "Denver. I can get it back with a phone call." Simpson said.
      Paul smiled. "Good. Do you know anybody at the museums in Washington?"
      The question caught Simpson off guard. "Yes. Why?"

National Museum of Natural History
Department of Mineral Sciences
Smithsonian Institution

      "John!" A woman with pure white hair said. "It's been years." She hugged him tightly.
      "Too many years since Paricutin in Mexico." Simpson answered.
      "Yes, yes. You must tell me what you've been up to. But we're neglecting your friends."
      "I'm sorry. Paul, Nan, this is Doctor Marista Columbo." The shook hands all around.
      "So, what brings you to DC from that island paradise you call home?"
      "Paul and Nan are researching unusual Lenape Indian relics. And I knew the Smithsonian had an unusual specimen from Ohio."
      "I'll take your word for it." Columbo said. "I don't get over to that area very often."
      "It not public displayed." Nan said.
      Columbo blinked at the woman's odd cadence and sentence structure. "Then it's in the vaults or storage someplace."
      "We'll do the digging." Simpson said.
      "Pun intended?" Columbo grinned.
      "Of course."
      "Let me get you credentialed."

Off Site Storage Facility
Smithsonian Institution

      "Section D-3, room 19. Down that hall, room 19 will be on your right, just past the rest room." The staff member said. "I'll come by and check on you after while. Call if you need something."
      "Thank you."
      Simpson had been given access as a professional courtesy while Paul and Nan were allowed in as his assistants.
      They had a rough idea of where Halparess had been put after its discovery and classification as an object of interest found near the Serpent Mound. But it hadn't been where Paul had placed it.
      The original location of the creature's right eye was several meters from where it eventually ended up. The disc had been discovered in the eroded bank of the creek downstream of the open mouth of the effigy. Since it didn't seem to belong to the builders of the mounds, and nobody else knew what it was, it traveled through various circles until it was willed as part of a collection of oddities to the museum several years after its discovery.

      Nan stood in the center of Room 19 and looked slowly around. "Not here."
      Paul agreed. "I do not sense it either."
      Simpson looked at the room, then at them. "Can you tell if we're even in the right building?"
      Paul thought about it. "I think so. But Halparess is closer to her." He looked at Nan.
      Now Nan was looking around like she was looking through the walls into adjacent rooms. "Yes. There way." She pointed off to one side.
      "Let's go see if we can get in."

      "In 16." Nan said from the hallway.
      The door was locked, and from the looks of it, there was an alarm on the door frame as well.
      Paul turned and looked at John. "This is where you join us."
      "I don't understand."
      "No go back, no forward." Nan said.
      John took a step backward and thought about running and shouting for the guard.
      "You will come with us. Become one of us."
      "What are you?"
      "They call us Anunnaki." Paul said.
      "Other things too."
      "You have already joined us, this is just the hard part."
      "You don't have to kill me do you?"
      Nan laughed for the first time in eons.
      "Far from it. You will be more alive than you have ever been." He looked down the hallway. "But we must be quick in your time. We cannot open this door like this, and they will not do it for us."
      "OK." Simpson said. "What do I do?"
      "Hold Nan's other hand and don't ever let go."

      As Simpson watched and held her hand, Nan changed from a short middle aged woman to a slightly pale skinned woman with deep dark eyes with long coarse hair and a well defined jawline that reminded him of bas relief carving from the Middle East.
      Then the door vanished.
      They were in the room.
      "There." Nan said.
      Simpson looked out and saw Halparess glowing slightly. He reached out and picked it up with his free hand.

      And they were no longer in the room.

near "Barnard's Star"
in the constellation Ophiuchus

      "Halparess. Whom some call Tutu. Gaungchring. I believe you know him by the name Asar" Paul said introducing Simpson to the parts of the ship that were also beings of the same order as Paul and Nan, and now evidently, himself. "My name would be Enki in your old language. Nan was called Nanshe."
      Nan smiled at him, then she dissolved into a circle of light.
      Simpson looked around. From where he was, he could see where the worlds had been, and where they were going. He looked at Earth and could watch the planet form or see people in starships leaving for distant worlds. Then he watched an Ice Age. When he looked out he could see other star systems and watch entire worlds go through their life cycles.
      Finally Simpson turned back to the Supreme Observer whom had been named An at one time. "What do we do?"
      The being seemed amused by the question. "We do..."
      Nan answered the rest of it. "We observe. Learn."
      Paul finished the thought. "In some cases we, help and assist."
      "If some one asks."
      "Yes. They must ask. That is our law. If people do not ask for assistance, we cannot intervene." The Supreme Observer said slowly.
      "I see." Simpson said as he looked out at the Universe.
      "And now. Neither can you." The Supreme Observer said to him.
      Simpson nodded at the news and felt sadness deep inside himself. A profound sadness. There was so much he thought he could do for people. But he knew he couldn’t do anything unless they asked for the help. The emotion was almost too much for him to bear.
      "And now."
      Simpson looked back toward the others.
      "And now. You understand us." One of them said with their own deeply sad eyes.

End Ophiuchus

The Desk Fiction Collection

[Note: All rights reserved, including the right to further publication. Distributed copies to proofreaders and editors remain property of the author. No infringement of copyright is intended. All persons are fictitious, all geographic places and the ancient Zodiac sign of Ophiuchus the Serpent Handler, and the movement of Barnard's star, are actually there or may be presumed from available data.
Email- dr_leftover{~at~}themediadesk{~dot~}com   Selah ]
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