Now we're getting somewhere. I'm not certain if this is good or bad, for our meager knowledge was dearly bought, and while we left our friend and companion, Jack, in the capable hands of a doctor, I fear for his future. I feel more than a twinge of guilt at our abandoning Jack at the NWI mining operation, but what could we do, because if we fail, all of humanity must fail.
Once again I feel as if we could have done a better job of investigating the clues at the mine, since one thing is certain: NWI is behind some diabolical plot to destroy mankind, in some cataclysmic event known only as "The Day of the Beast." And while we know of this plot, we are slow to unravel its details, and so prevent it from occurring.
On our return from Romania we knew that we must travel to Peru, for the clues found at Castle Hauptman and the word sent from Paul LeMonde both pointed there. We still had no idea as to where in Peru we were called or what we would find there, and because we had a several open ended avenues of research from our exploits from our latest trip, we elected to return home to the States first. Wonderful, more travel aboard ship, just what my nerves didn't need.
In London, several of us began our research, while others bought our group passage aboard a freighter bound for New York, and leaving the next day. At the library we searched for information concerning the Great Hall of Celaeno, but other than confirming Celaeno as a star in the Hyades (a star cluster in the constellation of Taurus), we found nothing of use. Likewise, our research of various ancient tomes now in our possession revealed little, and we had not the time or resources to study them.
Early the next morning we boarded our ship (under assumed names) and endured seven days of tedium, arriving in New York harbor on the afternoon of Monday, April 19th. We then proceeded to Boston, where we planned our next steps. Franklin, Mac, and Professor Vaughan left from Miskatonic University, in Arkham the next morning to consult the library of blasphemous books contained therein. We spent most of our time (with some help from Vaughan's colleague, Professor Armitage) pouring over a deteriorated copy of a Latin translation of the R'lyeh Text, excerpts of which we had found at Castle Hauptman. It was from this odious scroll (assuming the translation was faithful) that we learned of the Great Hall, a vast repository of ancient, alien knowledge. The hall itself is located upon a planet orbiting the star Celaeno. Travel to this planet was possible by those who possessed a substance known as space mead, and who could call upon unearthly creatures capable of fantastic travel through space. By using the space mead to place ones body in a state of near suspended animation, a human being could survive the trip through the outer void of space.
Our thoughts quickly ran back to our search of the tower in Hauptman's castle, where we had found a fragmentary translation of the R'lyeh Text along with several sealed vials of an amber liquid. Could this be the space mead used by Hauptman and young master Edward on their trips to Celaeno? We could only hope so, for the creation of such an elixir is beyond our knowledge, and we could only find mention of it in the Text itself, but no instructions for its brewing or distillation.
As for the other requirement, the service of an alien creature for transport, I reluctantly confessed of a dark secret to my friends. I knew how to call forth and control a being, a Byakhee, which could very possibly perform the task. I had learned of the ritual for summoning and binding such a creature to my will years before I met my friends. Of the dark events that drove me to such dire and forbidden knowledge I will only say here that I required a mount capable of traveling through barriers that presented an unsurpassable blockade to those beast of burden that had evolved on this planet. I had never thought to use that damnable rite again, and my resolve wavered even then as I spoke of it, in the comfortable setting of the rare book vault, amongst friends.
But what should we seek at the Great Hall? I fear that a single trip to Celaeno will be all I, or if I dare speak for them, my friends can handle, so to rush into such an epic and insane journey without additional information on our quest would prove to be futile, if not fatal. We would wait then, and see what Peru would reveal to us before speaking again of such rash actions.
While we were busy in Arkham, the rest of our team occupied their time at the Boston Public Library, in a two pronged search for information about Chandler Enterprises and about Peru. Chandler Industries, it seemed was now a subsidiary of a global corporation called New World Industries (NWI). This conglomerate maintained shipping lines, fabrication plants, mines, and other holdings around the world. We tracked down the name Gordon Chubb, who's partially burned letter to Baron Hauptman we recovered in Romania, and found he was the chief comptroller at NWI. Even more fantastic was the name of NWI's CEO: Edward Chandler! We felt certain that this person was none other than the "young master Edward" referred to so ominously in the correspondence between Hauptman and Cornwallis. The research on Peru turned up startling evidence that converged with what the others had found: a series of several Earthquakes recently occurred, all within close proximity to a mine owned and operated by NWI! The mine itself was in the Andes, near the town of Huancucho, about 200 miles to the northeast of Lima. This mining facility was an experiment using the latest surface extraction procedures to obtain rich silver ore at a relatively small cost. Once more, scientists visiting the area were often allowed to stay at the main mine camp as guests of NWI.
When we once again gathered together in Boston on the following day, we quickly formed a plan of action. We would book passage on a ship bound for Peru as soon as possible, and then travel from Lima to Huancucho, where we would pose as a group of visiting archaeologists, led by Professor Vaughan, studying the local Indian culture. We found a steamer leaving for Lima from New York in two days, and purchased tickets once again under assumed names. The trip would take an agonizing 13 days, but proved to be uneventful. The trip through the Panama Canal was an interesting experience (and saved many days of travel around the cape), but we felt uneasy for some reason once we entered the Pacific Ocean. It was as if some unseen menace hid beneath the surface, watching us with ill intent as we flitted above it in a fragile shell. We slept little and stayed up late until we arrived in Peru on May 5th.
Cinco de Mayo. Well, the city partied, but we remained, for the most part, subdued and indoors as much as possible. The weather in Lima was quite mild, but we knew it would become colder the further into the mountains we traveled. We spent the rest of the day finding out about Peru, and how to get to the NWI mine. We found that bus service to Huancucho consisted of an old bus, with worn out seats and rattling windows (those that were still intact), that left Lima early on week day mornings for the trek to Huancucho, returning in the evening. There was apparently no way to contact the mine (unless one happened to have a radio transmitter and know the correct frequency), or even the town below, so the next morning, May 6th, we were bouncing around in the bus to Huancucho. By early afternoon it had climbed into the mountains and arrived at the small, impoverished town of Huancucho. Taking our luggage from the top of the bus, where it had been tied down with hemp ropes and now coated by a half inch of dust, we looked out over the mud walled huts of the village. The only building of any substantial size (and solid construction) appeared to be an outpost of some sort, which also served as a bar. Inside a single, sullen customer turned his back on us as we entered, and an Indian woman stared impassively at us from behind the bar.
An instant later an elderly, European gentleman entered the room from a back doorway, and greeted us in French. Karen, our Francophile pharmacist, answered in kind, which made the old 'gent quite thrilled at our presence. He was somewhat disappointed to learn that not only were we not French, but only Karen could speak French fluently (her family was from France). He introduced himself as Victor Montain, and we introduced ourselves, using our fictitious personas. As we exchanged pleasantries, Victor kept looking at Karen, as if he recognized her, which made her quite nervous. Eventually Karen confessed that she was traveling under an alias, and gave Victor her real name. His reaction was quite unexpected, although welcome. It seemed that Victor had known Karen's father quite well, and had even known Karen when she was a child (fortunately, Karen did have vague memories of an "Uncle Victor"). Victor now became quite friendly, and invited us into the back room for a drink in private, and when we spoke of visiting the NWI mining site he volunteered the services of his brother in-law to act as our guide (for a modest fee), and his place to stay for the evening, so we could start on our way bright and early the next morning.
A few minutes later, the sound of gun fire erupted from the front room of the trading post, and we rushed in to find two police (or army) officers pulling a third, wounded, officer from the bar. The sole patron was no where to be seen! After talking with Victor, we figured the fellow must have been some sort of outlaw, and reacted violently when the authorities arrived. We'd have to be on our toes to keep out of harm's way, it would seem, before we even made it to the mine. Later that night, Victor explained how he was forced to leave Europe, and wound up in South America. He had found what looked to be an authentic treasure map, which he followed to this area, but had never found any riches. Almost our of money, Victor set up the trading post, which boomed once NWI came to town.
The next morning Victor's brother in-law, Sauncho, was waiting for us with llamas already loaded with the bulk of our supplies and luggage. We headed up the worn and partly obscured track to the mine at a slow but constant pace. Except for Jack, who decided to show off my jogging along side the llamas. This lasted for a short while, when the high altitude combined with an encounter with a poisonous snake convinced Jack that riding on a llama really was the best course of action.
After several hours of climbing up, the trail leveled off at a wide plateau, upon which perched a cluster of square buildings of wood and metal. Surrounding this compound was a tall barbed wire fence, patrolled by a pair of guards. As we approached we saw a large sign above the gate with the letters NWI next to the image of a red recumbent lion. We had arrived at the mine! We told the guards our prepared story about archeological research, and one of them led us to the camp's main office, where we were introduced to Jonathan Harris, head of mining operations. Harris kindly offered the use of the open barracks on site, but warned that a group of NWI executives were expected in the near future, and we would have to leave to make room for them when they arrived. We dropped our baggage off at the barracks, and asked Sauncho to stay on site for several days, until we were ready to leave (we would pay him, of course).
|N W I|
Sauncho told us of a strange legend held among the natives, that the coming of the white men would spell doom, but they must resist them until a ghost came to aid them, but his coming would mark the day of the beast. Sauncho shrugged after seeing our bewildered expressions, saying that it was only a local superstition.
We decided that we needed more information, and that a search of the mine's office might turn up some relevant and useful piece of information. That night after dinner, Mac, Kim, Jack, and Kevin stole away to the door of the office building. Kevin quietly worked at the locked door, and opened it. Mac stood watch outside as the rest quickly slipped inside and began searching for clues.
Almost at once Jack found a crumpled, discarded letter in the waste bin from Harris to Chandler. The letter, which was undated and looked somewhat incomplete, stated that the mining operations at sector A-48 were ahead of schedule, and so the entire operation would soon be shutting down. There was also some odd reference to NWI's allies from "Y.", although we had no idea what it meant. Looking at the site map on the wall, we found that sector A-48 was a little further up the mountain side than we had traveled with Harris earlier that day apparently just beyond a low ridge.
The filing cabinet yielded a group of shipping receipts affixed with a Chinese stamp and an address to some place in San Francisco, dating from years back up until just a few months ago. The shipping weights were all a few pounds each (odd for a mine), and several of them had the initials "B.J." hand written on them. Further investigation revealed no employees or visitors of the mine with the initials "B.J.". Strange, but perhaps they aren't a person's initials after all.
We decided that we had pushed our luck in the office for too long, and so returned to our barracks, where we discussed what we had found, and our next course of action. It was obvious that the main business of the mine was taking place at sector A-48, and it probably had nothing to do with silver. Night time seemed the best time for clandestine explorations, so we loaded up our guns and set out for sector A-48. We gave a convincing argument about the advantages of archaeological research at night to the guards patrolling the fence, who let us pass once they saw we were well armed and able to fend for ourselves.
We made our way up towards the ridge, and after several hours of slow progress, we neared the top. A strange, mechanical whirring sound could be heard ahead, and so Kevin, Karen and Mac peeped over the ridge line. Below them was a large but shallow pit, in the center of which a large machine was drilling away into a thin seam of sediment, thrust up and outwards from the surrounding rock in grotesquely unnatural formation. Operating the machine were a handful of men - it appeared that Harris was one of them - and a group of large, hideous monstrosities that were a blend of fly and bat, with a mass of pulsating fungal growth serving as a head.
Kevin passed out, while Karen and Mac stifled cries of shock and horror. Karen ground her face into the ground, grinding the rocks with her teeth, while Mac pounded his head against the rock until he began to bleed. The rest of us managed to stop these two from hurting themselves seriously and when they (and Kevin) recovered, they told us, with unsteady voices, what lay beyond the ridge.
Once again braving the horrors below, our friends peered over the ridge and survey the landscape. The ridge on which we were crouched ran down around part of the pit, and widened out at the top and ended in an abutment. The dark opening of a cave could be seen in the face of the abutment. We knew we had to do something, and facing the unknown cave seemed a better risk than those things in the pit, so we crept down along the crest of the ridge and darted quickly into the cave.
A soft glow of a pale blueish-yellow light filtered up from the back of the cave, a hundred or so yards back. We followed the glow to another sheer face of rock. But engraved, carved, or otherwise set in the rock was a glowing portal. Mac bravely plunged his hand into the portal, and then retracted it, unharmed. He then plunged forward, leaving the rest of us to wonder at his fate. A few moments later, he emerged from the portal, and described a clean, well lighted corridor with white walls on the other side of the portal.
We decided that the bulk of our team should enter the portal and explore the corridor, while Professor Vaughan would remain behind and stand guard at the portal's entrance, in the cave.
Kevin and Karen looked through a windowed door on the left of the main corridor, which revealed a laboratory of some sort. Quietly the two entered the lab and rummaged through the equipment and chemicals. Kevin made educated guesses at the functions some of the mechanical items might perform, but the metal cylindrical tanks on a shelf on the far wall puzzled them greatly. Karen examined one such cylinder that was open, but could make little of it, and so they approached the one tank with a lid affixed. The tank made a sloshing sound when moved, and so Kevin worked for several minutes on the lid before finding the proper way to open it. Karen looked inside and gasped, for there, floating in a strange, acrid smelling liquid, was a human brain! Fighting the urge to gag, Karen noted that several wires connected the brain to the cylinder wall itself, and where the wires connected to the wall corresponded to sockets on the outside of the cylinder. Kevin quickly resealed the container, and with Karen's help attached a device to each of the sockets. A quavering, tinny sounding voice spoke from the square box that Kevin had just plugged into the cylindrical tank. Between shouts, pleadings, and shrieks, Karen and Kevin guessed that somehow a mine worker had found his way in here, and had his brain removed and placed into the tank. Karen then asked the voice about the fly-like creatures. A loud, thin wail came from the speaker, which our friends unplugged after several minutes of trying to calm down the voice within had failed. It was then that the alarms began to sound.
The rest of our team had continued down the main corridor, and then turned down hallway to the right. At the end of the hallway was a window to the left and another hallway to the right, which ended in a door with no window. Peering out the window, Mac, Kim, Jack and I beheld a strange landscape: we appeared to be looking out into a large, natural crater, as if they were seeing it from halfway up the crater wall itself. Above... oh merciful heavens, above the sky was filled with stars, but shining there, where the moon itself should have been, was our planet Earth! While the shock was great, we pulled ourselves together, backed away from the window and looked towards the closed door before us. Mac and Jack leveled their weapons, as Mac slowly pushed open the door. The hallway continued on straight, but another fly-creature was walking down away from Mac and Jack, towards another door. Jack instantly fired his shotgun at the head of the loathsome creature, and its head exploded in a spray of grey goo, as the creature fell to the floor, dropping some strange staff as it did so. We quickly approached the creature, and after ensuring that it was dead, I took the staff and examined it. My guess was that it was a weapon of some sort, although I was not sure how to activate it, for it had no switches or levers that we could see.
Proceeding forward to the next door, Mac and Jack advanced, with Kim and I some distance behind. Jack kicked opened the door, and there before us were three more fly-creatures, only these were facing us with staves raised! Jack shot wild, while Mac was hit with some sort of heat ray produced by one of the staff wielding creatures. Mac dropped and rolled to put out the flames burning him and his clothing, while Jack bravely faced the aliens alone. I screamed out to run, as Kim and I proceeded to do, but Jack screamed out and began firing at the creatures. We're not sure what damage he did, but he was engulfed in several beams of red light, and instant was blackened as his clothes all but burned off. Quickly Kim and I raced back to our friends, and pulled Mac and Jack away from the door, which swung back shut. Mac had recovered enough to help us pull Jack's burned body back down the hallways to the main corridor and towards the portal. It was then that the alarms began to sound.
Kevin and Karen ran out from the lab, and quickly followed us through the portal. There, Karen quickly looked over Jack and determined that he was still alive, although just barely. We managed to lift him up, and very slowly make our way out of the cave, and down the ridge, back towards camp. We hid the state of our companion from the guards as we entered the compound, and called upon the site's doctor, Lawrence Richards, who demanded to know how Jack had been so badly burned. We invented a story about an accident involving smoking and sheets that somehow satisfied the Dr. Richards, who was distracted as he tended Jack. The rest of us retreated to the barracks, where we awakened Sauncho, and after paying him a large fee, managed to convince him that now was a good time to leave the mine. We quickly packed our belongings (minus Jack's) onto the llamas, and all but ran back down to Huancucho. We continued on past the town, and were well down the road that afternoon by the time the bus back to Lima drove up. We bid farewell to Sauncho, and rode back to Lima, nervously peering out the back window for signs of pursuit.
And so here we are, in Lima, hiding out in a dive of a hotel near the waterfront. What should we do? We could clearly follow up on the shipping labels routed to San Francisco that we found in the mine's office. But is there not more we could find out if we returned to the mine. Perhaps, but I think it would be suicide to return there.
And what of Jack? I doubt if Jack can be safely moved down the mountain side for several weeks, and yet we cannot afford that sort of delay. We will miss Jack, both for his enthusiasm and his willingness to use force when needed. Unfortunately, these very traits are what put him where he is now: in enemy hands and out of our reach.
A ship leaves for San Francisco in three days time. Should we be aboard her, or is there more for us to find in Peru?