Copyright 2011 by Patrick Smith
Let this stand as the definitive record of the so-called â€˜Blackstone Incident.â€™
I was there the day a man became a hero . . . the day a hero became a martyr.
I can still hear the screams of the Hrulon fighters as they bore down upon the man I came to know as the Dragon Striker. In an instant, a disrupter bomb ripped through his form, disintegrating flesh and bone, while alien alloys held their integrity.
It was in those next few moments that my days of chasing the horizon were over. Fate had found me.
You know, thatâ€™s the funny thing about fate. It doesnâ€™t wait for when youâ€™re ready, it doesnâ€™t wait for your day off. Just when you think youâ€™ve found your destiny and grabbed hold of that brass ring, you come to realize that you havenâ€™t been chasing your purpose in life. Instead, you realize that fate . . . has been stalking you.
That day, forces beyond my control would reveal to me the very fabric of my destiny and my birthright . . . as the Dragon Striker.
In the age before recorded time, long before the Golden Age of Man, a peaceful and technologically advanced race of Regadan humans, called the Gaidorin, began to chart the star systems beyond their own. On a distant blue-green world, which we now call the Earth, the Gaidorin colonized the untamed wilderness and found themselves face to face with the first primitive races of â€˜Earth-men.â€™
In an effort to share the benefit of their superior knowledge by introducing our ancestors to the concepts of society and architecture, the Gaidorin discovered that the men of Earth werenâ€™t so different from the tribes of Regada. However, civil war soon erupted across their lands, engulfing the tribes their homeworld- a bloody and violent conflict that spilled across the tribal colonies, even reaching planet Earth, which they called Isgard.
After many long years, the fires of war cooled and, united under an ideal of peace and justice, the tribes and planetary colonies of Regada came together and signed into effect the Constitution of Sovereign Tribes . . . but peace between such culturally diverse tribes and the passive disregard for such deeply rooted prejudice can only be held for so long. Plagued by unrest and indecision, a new war amongst the free tribes brews once more . . .
Fort Belvoir, Virginia . . .
The silver Audi eased through the drive that sat in the cold shadow of the Menzel Memorial tower. Dressed in a black suit and tie, Dr. James Howe, Director of Artifacts for the CIA, thanked the driver and stepped out onto the pavement. He mindlessly stroked the neglected salt-and-pepper mustache that widened with a weak yawn- the only indication of his early morning conference with the other CIA directors at Langley.
Like a sentinel of concrete, glass, and steel, the tower dominated the horizon of manicured lawns and of the Selfridge Headquarters Complex. Encompassed on three sides by a thick blanket of emerald pines, the nearly twenty story high-rise had been named for former Secretary of Defense, Donald Menzel. Stepping out of the towerâ€™s restricted access elevator, Howe was blinded by the mid-morning sunlight that spilled out into the hallway.
Toting a Data Monitor in one hand and an access card in the other, he intently navigated the long and winding corridor. A near window looked out onto the other buildings comprising the SAC (Special Activities Complex) nestled near the north side of the military installation. The Defense Logistics Agency anchored the sprawling view of the horizon, separated by US Route 1, which ran the length of the baseâ€™s western perimeter.
In his right hand, Howe clutched his access card, the glossy laminate gleaming light over a set of surreptitious emblems, known as the Maiestas Ordo. The symbols marked the key like this- on the top of the card, a 12-sided dodecagon bearing the initials â€˜MJXIIâ€™ sat positioned opposite of a multicolored rosy cross, adorned with astrological, alchemic, and occult symbols, centered by a gold lemniscate. The card was, in fact, so unique, that there were only twelve like it in existence. Turning with determination, he slid the coded ID card into a locking terminal that flanked the door at the end of the hall. The archive repository greeted him with the unpleasant, nearly acrid odor of controlled temperature and climate and the sounds of fluorescent lighting coming online.
â€œGood evening, Doctor Howe,â€ a soft computerized voice resounded into the archive chamber, accompanied by the soft flicker of a female-formed life-sized hologram that appeared from several hidden projectors.
â€œGood evening, JILL,â€ Dr. Howe replied to the slightly distorting image which sat fixed laterally on the doorframe. The CIAâ€™s newest human-software networking interface took some getting used to. Howe wasnâ€™t sure who the programmers had used to model the holoâ€™s likeness after, but he was sure that she was just as striking as the ethereal image would suggest.
â€œPrep the analysis terminal, JILL . . . access Tanas files zero-one-three-four-five-two and six-two-four-nine-five-four.â€
â€œAs you wish, Doctor Howe,â€ JILL complied. The red-haired female recording accessed her faux PDA as the appropriate systems came to life.
The humming sound of delicate, super-sophisticated systems filled the glass and steel lab as the sleek, horizontally-fixed holographic monitors came to life. Howe slid a pair of black-rimmed glasses over his eyes and pulled a seat up to the first active monitor. Hovering a few inches over the monitor screen, the ethereal representation of the ancient tablet spun into existence, birthed from a single spark of brilliant sapphire energy.
â€œJILL, access the cipher from our last session,â€ Dr. Howe began, as he keyed in a specific line of data at the systemâ€™s touchscreen keypad. â€œNew data from keypanel should help break the encryption.â€
â€œAs you wish, Doctor Howe,â€ the preprogrammed voice sounded again. â€œNew data is processed. Displaying results on Monitor One.â€ Howeâ€™s jaw suddenly fell in amazement as the cryptic markings on the ancient tablet gave way to lines of very standard Latin-based English words, some lines left broken by the deep scars in the surprisingly smooth stone.
â€œFirst Age, Eighteenth Year of Amma, realm [unrecognizable entry],â€ the translation systems adding the benefit of English prepositions and clarification entries to the foreign lines of markings. The opening line struck Howeâ€™s imagination . . . the words â€˜Ageâ€™ and â€˜Yearâ€™ were relatively common to someone here on Earth . . . but to the authors of the mysterious tablets, the application of such concepts were unfathomable to the human mind, even one as exceptional as the Directorâ€™s.
â€œIn the great [-] before the Tragedy of Vistol the Grand, the Hephan, Nostros, forged the swords [-] Arestar, great weapons which harnessed the life and will [-]. Within these swords was trussed the strength and power, as afforded by providence, to bring peace and justice [-] Tribes [See lists of alternate meanings].
â€œHowever, the Hephanâ€™s apprentice, Emon, betrayed his [-] forging in secret a sword of confusion, created with the sole purpose of plunging our realm into war, without end. It was at this time that the warrior Krael, born of the Hrulons, took up [-] sword of confusion.
â€œAnd so began the War of the First Age . . . .
â€œOf the accord of Naral of [-].â€ A whirlwind of possibilities suddenly flooded Howeâ€™s limited human mind. Manipulating the hologram, he â€˜filedâ€™ the tablet back into the system.
â€œSword of â€˜confusionâ€™?â€ He pondered the term mostly to himself. â€œJILL, apply the same properties to secondary file.â€
â€œAs you wish, Doctor Howe.â€ Howe had already studied the similarities not only in the markings of the two tablets collected from the African rainforests, but in the patterns as well. As the other flat-faced stone tablet materialized before him, the foreign glyphs suddenly morphed into Modern English.
â€œThird Age, Twelfth Year of Bostros, the realm of Regada,â€ the glyphs disclosed again, indicating an incomprehensible passage of time from the recording engraved on the first tablet.
â€œ[-] . . . it began with the emergence of the [-] from each of the Great Tribes, each bearing the armor of the eternals, said to have been discovered by our forefathers [-]. Legend states [-] intended to usher in an era of righteousness to each of the tribes . . . but much was lost in the great wars [-]
â€œAt the end of the war [-], only [-] remained to contest the shadow of the Hrulon, called Krael, [-]. No one knows what evil had brought to Krael unnatural long life . . . some assume the evil of the confusion sword had utterly consumed the Hrulon. Whatever the justification [-]
â€œIn his ever-growing madness, Krael declared a last stand against the surviving [-]. It was this battle that would prove to be his undoing, as the champion of the Duroks, the warrior Arius, [-], defeated Krael, summoning a new era of peace for our [-].
â€œOf the accord of Tikke of the Duroks,â€ he read aloud. â€œJILL, I want a full diligence standard on both translations. Forward results to my personal account, then save the translations to hard copy, standard Tanas protocol. I want a full data lock on both files, Code Alpha 5.â€
â€œAs you wish, Doctor Howe.â€ James Howe found himself struggling for a grasp on reality. The artifacts, known as the Tanas Tablets, were named after archeologist William Tanas, who unearthed the stone writings near the city of Bandiagara in the West African country of Mali. They gained countless notoriety after radiocarbon dating had traced their origins to a time before recorded history, making them the oldest artifacts in all of human history.
However, it was the discovery of a cipher key on an ancient Sumerian stele nearly three months before that confirmed the extraordinary origins of these extremely-confidential tablets to rest; and provided Howe the breakthrough he had been praying for. With a long sigh, Howe pulle a small phone from his jacket and slid the keypad open.
â€œColonel Macluran? I have sensitive information that Tanas protocol denies from telecommuniquÃ©. Yes sir . . . everything is Code Alpha locked. Okay sir, Iâ€™ll see you when you get here.â€