Boston to a star 6 trillion miles away (and back), May 25 - 26, 1926
That we had to risk the trip to the library on distant Celaeno was clear: our research, and that of our good friend Dr. Armitage had made that much plain. I posses certain dark knowledge that, when combined with the space meade we took from Baron Hauptman's castle in Romania, would enable us to travel safely to that distant star, and to return thither, should our searches prove successful. Years ago I made a tragic mistake that has haunted me for much of my life, but all I shall reveal of it here is that it involved contact with a malevolent and powerful entity called Hastur, and in the process of breaking that contact I learned a spell to summon a beast of burden... a byakhee. These creatures are capable of dimensional travel, and could in theory transport us to the lone planet orbiting Celaeno, upon which was built a great library of horrible cosmic knowledge.
Summoning of the byakhee and binding it my will takes considerable effort, and I estimated my abilities limited us to three of the beasts. The question before us was which three. I must go, of course, since the byakhee were bound to me and my knowledge of arcane facts and languages is uncomfortably large. Mac was an obvious choice because he knew several ancient languages as well, and had an even greater understanding of the occult than I. We decided upon Professor Vaughan as our third and final traveler, for she too was skilled in a number of old languages and as an archaeologist was comfortable around unusual and ancient architecture.
Our scheduled departure time was for 3:00 AM the very next morning, just as Aldebaran rises above the eastern horizon. None of us slept that night, preferring to sit in my study and talk of what we've seen of the world, and what we would do once this disastrous affair was over. At the appointed hour Mac, Miranda and I stepped out onto the back porch, and I summoned the byakhee. Moments later we heard a flapping sound from above as three bat-winged and leathery skinned monstrosities flew before a sickly yellow half moon and then descended to land before us. Silently we mounted our steeds and quaffed the space meade as the byakhee launched themselves skyward once more and began to climb higher and higher. My limbs began to feel heavy, and a peculiar form of dizziness overtook me, leaving me grasping at the neck of my mount in a desperate attempt to hold on and not fall off. After what seemed like hours of struggling I gave up with weariness and let the darkness take me.
When I came to I was still on the back of my byakhee, but everything else had changed: the night was gone, but it was not replaced with the light of Earth's blessed sun, but of an alien star. The atmosphere was dense and heavy, with a metallic smell that made my head ache. While my vision remained somewhat blurred, I found my sense of hearing had improved, although all I could hear above the steady wing beats of the byakhees were the moans of Mac and Miranda, who were obviously coming around as well.
Below us was a grey body of liquid, perhaps mercury, completely calm and serene. Up ahead on the distant horizon perched a dark horizontal smudge. Hours passed as we flew towards the smudge, and slowly it began to take on features of a land mass of barren black rocky hills. Upon the nearest shore of this land loomed a building, seemingly unimpressive at first, but as we approached closer and closer I realized the hills were mountains and the small building was a structure of obscenely huge proportions: the Great Library of Celaeno! The library was a square building with eight massive columns in front, and a dock leading out onto the sea of mercury, from which three piers projected a small way. It was onto the central pier that the byakhee deposited us, and then stood aside, awaiting further instructions.
I instructed the byakhee to wait for our return, and new that if our search took any great length of time, I would have to rebind these creatures to my will or they would abandon us. I did not tell this to my companions, because the shock of seeing the monolithic building before us has made them uneasy enough about our chances within. The thing was made of a marbled rock of dark green hues shot full of large veins of gold.
We slowly walked up to the library and passed between a pair of columns, which towered at least 400 feet above us, and entered an enormous doorway to find ourselves in the central hall. Tiers upon tiers of mammoth balconies wrapped around the walls -- perhaps some twenty-five tiers, each twenty feet high -- upon which were large tables and peculiar storage bins. Branching off from the main hall were six smaller halls, three on the left and three on the right, into which the first fifteen or so tiers followed. Four gigantic spiral staircases wound their way up from the ground floor to the top most tier. An army of researchers could spend several lifetimes searching for a specific piece of information in this vast library and never find it!
We had found several references to what we sought: a document containing the spell Create Barrier of Naach-Tith, which directed us to the sixth section of the sixth tier of the sixth hall. Another document had revealed that the writings of the beast resided on the second hall to the right of the entrance. We quickly marched to the first stairway on the right and ascended to the sixth level. Carefully making our way past a large pile of rubble and debris from where part of the roof had collapsed and taken down part of the tiers with them, we arrived at the second hall from the right. As we walked down the hall we noted that their were clusters of tables and storage racks stretching unevenly for the length of the hall. We counted down to the sixth clustering, and began to study the bins against the wall.
The format of the documents varied wildly from scrolls of ancient parchment to leather bound books, to books made of unidentifiable materials, to items that we couldn't identify at all, but were stacked with the same reverence and care as all other documents. All of the documents we checked had something to do with beasts, so we were certain we were in the correct section, but there were thousands of materials to search, so Miranda and I began to go through them methodically, one at a time. We had packed several days worth of food and water, and thus were prepared for a long ordeal. Mac was quite restless, and poked about beneath the huge table nearby, the top of which was some six feet above the floor.
After several hours of searching, Miranda and I had gone through a few dozen scrolls when we looked up to see Mac hauling miscellaneous items over to the table. He made a small pile, climbed on top, and jumped onto the table. There amidst a pile of papers, ink bottles, pens, books and scrolls Mac found an English translation of the Create Barrier spell we were seeking. A postscript on the translation revealed the diligent scribe was none other than Edward Chandler! Mac, Miranda, and I eagerly sat down with the scroll, and remembering the warnings against taking things from the library set about the slow process of memorizing the spell. Several hours later, weary beyond belief, we stumbled out from the library, mounted the byakhee and after quaffing the last of our space meade, headed for home.
Boston, May 25 - 26, 1926
We heard the sound of large flapping wings land out back, but we stayed put as Franklin had warned us to do. When we heard the sound of beating wings leaving, we crept back to our rooms, although none of us could get to sleep. That's what saved us.
Around 4:00 AM I heard screams coming from the bedroom next to mine, so I leapt up from the bed (on top of which I had been lying awake, fully clothed) and charged into the room to find Karen screaming as a glowing, bubbling mound of gelatinous goo leapt from the floor and onto Karen's face! I leapt in and tried to pry the thing from Karen, but it stung and burned my hands like acid. Others entered the room, and Jacky, quickly ran back to his room and brought back a gun. Meanwhile, the rest of us were able to get the thing off of Karen and toss it off to one side. Jacky returned and fired at it a few times with no apparent affect, and the thing then jumped upon him. Kim ran out and came back with a vase of water and tossed it over Jacky and the thing, and with a sudden flash it vanished.
That's how it arrived, Karen said, with a bright flash. She looked up and saw the quivering blob clinging to a corner of the bedroom ceiling. She was able to move aside as it threw herself towards her the first time and scream out in fear. Had she been sleeping, she it would have killed her.
Dawn broke, and we gathered our wits as we gathered ourselves in the dining room for breakfast. We had little else to do but wait, and I occupied my time by browsing through the morning paper. I saw an interesting report under the weather section: a number of people had seen a bolt of lightening arc from the east side of Boston Harbor to the west -- almost as if it had leapt from ground to ground rather than ground to sky -- and had reported it to the authorities. The time of all the reports was 4:00 AM. On the opposite page of this article was an advertisement for tours at a new NWI research lab located in east Boston. We decided to put our time to good use and investigate, just in case there was a link.
The lure of science exposed had brought quite a few people to the NWI lab, and we had to wait in line for our groups' turn through the new building. From the outside, the building itself was unimpressive: a single story square structure with few doors and no windows. When our turn came, Biff, our young clean-cut tour guide led us through a door on the left and into a long hall. The hallway itself continued on straight for about a hundred feet, and turned right. Large display windows lined most of the walls, with a few glass covered shelves setup in the hallway itself for smaller exhibits. There was a door on the left wall with a tempting "Employees Only" sign glaring out in bright red letters.
As Biff led the crowd down the hall, talking about various aspects of the NWI research facility, a few employees came through the door, which didn't appear to be locked. The employees left around the corner, where Biff soon followed with the group in tow. We quickly opened the door and entered the small hallway beyond. This small hallway intersected with another larger hallway that ran parallel to the one the tour was taking. We opted to cross the larger hallway and stick to the smaller, which led to a cul-de-sac with a door on either side.
The room on the left appeared to be a robotics lab, with a great deal of electromechanical devices lying about on work benches. Dominating the room was a large cylindrical object with four sets of mechanical arms, and a pair of legs that ended in small tractor tracks. I discovered a small black box with various devices on it and decided it must be the remote control unit for this amazing robot. Interesting as it was, this room held nothing that seemed relevant to what we were seeking, so we moved on to the room on the other side of the small hallway.
The new room appeared to be an electronics lab, and was filled with various tubes, wires, and other odd devices. In the center of the room sat a large machine that smelled of smoke, which I analyzed. The best I could make out was that the system developed a powerful electromagnetic field and projected it -- perhaps over great distances. Kim had spent this time looking over the work benches and had found a log book written in German. I scanned the last few entries and noted that the machine had been operated earlier that morning, 4:00 AM to be precise, but had shorted out. We now knew what had caused this morning's unusual lightning, and probably what caused the blob thing to arrive in Franklin's house. But why?
There was another door on the far side of the lab, which was locked, but after a few minutes of work, Jacky managed to open it. Within was a small office and another door to yet another lab beyond. In the office itself we found various letters incriminating the head of the lab, Dr. Dieter and NWI in a significant number of dastardly deeds and plans. Also within was a letter from Lang-Fu warning Dieter about us, and providing him with Franklin's address! We now knew why.
In the lab beyond we found evidence of horrid, immoral procedures that Dieder had been performing on animals, and based upon several remains we found in several bins, humans too. We were making back into the electronics lab when a small white haired man wearing a white lab coat came in. He became quite upset when he saw us, even though we assured him we were part of the tour group and had simply gotten lost. He puzzled over that for a moment, obviously still fuming, when another man came in -- this one dressed in business attire. The new man asked for our names (unfortunately we didn't think to give false names when we signed up for the tour!) and assured Dr. Dieter, the small man, that an honest mistake had been made and he would take care of it. The man introduced himself as Mr. Jergens, Dr. Dieter's assistant, as he led us out of the lab. Jergens then advised that we not return to the lab.
That afternoon we puzzled over what to do next when the phone rang. It was Jergens asking to meet one of us in private -- he had something important to tell us. We were highly suspicious of Jergens, but he had saved our butts back at the NWI lab for some unknown reasons, so Kim told him to come to Franklin's house that night.
Kim met Jergens at the door as the rest of us remained in Franklin's study. Jergens appeared quite nervous as he told of how he was once a US Government agent, and that he had discovered that Dr. Dieter had created a form of human mind control using bioelectronic implants into the brain. He had "implanted" a large number of people, known throughout NWI as the "Sons of Terror," whom NWI had been placing in critical positions of power throughout the government. He said he could not act on his own, for fear that Dieder would find out, and asked us to deliver his message to the government. He provided a valise full of documents from Dieder's office, a number of an agency in Washington DC to call, and a code word to let them know we weren't practical jokers.
Moments later a car stopped before our house and stopped. Jergens looked out the window and gave a small gasp. Suddenly he clutched his head and screamed as smoke poured out from under his hat. He collapsed on the floor as the car sped off.
Kim removed Jergen's hat and we could see that something had been implanted in his skull that had melted down -- probably by a remote command from whoever was in the car. We quickly took his valise and left for a hotel room on the far side of Boston. Plucking up our courage, we called the DC number. A man answered asking who we were and what we wanted. We quickly gave him the code word, and told him all Jergens had said, in addition to what we had also found out at the lab. The man asked our location, which we nervously provided, and told us to wait there.
Jacky decided to wait down the hall, with weapons drawn, just in case we had set ourselves up for a trap. An hour or so later half a dozen well-dressed men arrived, and instantly told Jacky to knock off the funny business or die. The men took Jergens' valise and told us that we were to forget that we had seen them or Jergens.
The next morning we crept back to Franklin's house and discovered that Jergen's body was gone. Oddly enough, there was no sign of a break in or of any attempts to search the house. That night Franklin, Miranda and Mac returned with the spell they were seeking.