Kathy Bennett had never been prone to car sickness, except when she wasn‘t feeling good anyway. As the black MDX raced along the Tibetan highway she was grateful since she was in the back seat and Anne Rutgers was behind the wheel. The good road had been built over — and through–very rough terrain. The tunnels along the way had entrances decorated with murals and a Chinese gate facades, giving a good feel for the diversity and wealth of the Tibetan plateau.
At first Kathy had been concerned about Anne‘s driving, but soon she realized the woman had the driving skills of a Formula One racer— or better yet a cabbie in Cairo. This allowed her to focus less on the road and more on the scenery around them that showed the development and promise of the Plateau. This trip was going to do wonders for her career when she filed reports on Chinese rail service, dams and Tibet. She made a mental note to look up reports on Chinese development of Tibet.
At the train station she’d hopped in the back seat with their luggage and John had taken shotgun. Anne had taken off and never looked back. Instead of driving north into the city then west around a mountain she raced along a service road that ran beside the river south out of Lhasa. Kathy had held on as they rocketed along the gravel track.
“So, where are we going?” She managed to ask as Anne bounced through another pothole, doing forty on a road that deserved twenty.
Kathy was grateful the Teaching Assistant didn’t even take her eyes off the road as she spoke. “The Hidden Monastery.”
John and Kathy were silent, stunned by the destination and the woman’s nonchalance. The two looked at each other in the rear view mirror and John asked. “Where is the Hidden Monastery located?”
“Next to a place called Samye Monastery, southeast of here. It’ll take about half an hour to get there.”
Looking out the window Kathy guessed it was supposed to take at least twice that long. Wow. This woman could drive—at least she hoped she could. Trying not to bite her tongue on the bumps, she asked. “Its at Samye Monastery?”
“Actually it’s inside Haibu Rishen, a mountain east of the Monastery. It’s a cave system that’s been used for meditation since prehistoric times. The Hidden Monastery was established over two thousand years ago but was expanded there by Padmasambhava, who helped build the Samye Monastery. Its very existence is a blood oath secret.”
The two looked at each other in the mirror again. Why was she telling them? John spoke. “What’s it used for?”
“Storage and protection of ancient artifacts and knowledge, alot of it’s scientific stuff.”
Kathy stared at the woman as they finally reach the main road heading south. Then she noticed the gate from the railroad siding—the one they were approaching at forty miles per hour— was closed. Just then a man in a black suit wearing Ray Ban sunglasses opened it and Anne roared through without slowing. She made a left hand turn onto the road, accelerating to a ungodly speed Kathy knew had to be illegal. The woman casually went around cars, bicycles and donkey carts like they were standing still. Finally Kathy asked. “So how do you know its there?”
“Oh, Professor Braun’s known about it for a while.” She paused to go around a column of military trucks. “He’s always been a big fan of history.” Here John nodded as she went on and Kathy remembered that the Professor had taught several of his history classes. “So it was no surprise when he looked into ancient knowledge that’d been lost. You could call it a mating of science and history. Then he met other like minded individuals and it went from there.”
“Ancient knowledge? Like Greek fire?”
“Greek fire’s a good example, although that recipe never really was lost. 3D printing is a good example of a recent development. Or …”
John interrupted.“3D printing?”
“They use an inkjet head to lay down layers of plastic, forming tools or parts.” Kathy told him, then asked Anne. “Do you mean 3D printing is ancient technology?”
“Yep. It’s a form of laminate material that was used prior to the Deluge and passed on for thousands of years. The ‘beaver wood’ used to build Noah’s Ark was actually an advanced form of composite cellulose. That’s just one example.”
“And this was passed down from Noah?”
“We’re not sure, the possibilities are only being realized now. Several ancients used the technique. You’ve heard of Daedalus?”
John shook his head. “And Professor Braun finds and develops this?”
“No, not that. He’s actually been working more with deciphering Incan Cloud Computing.”
Now Kathy shook her head. “The Incans had Cloud Computing?“ She brought herself back to the moment. “And who is it that the Professor works with? The Hidden Monastery is, like, hidden.”
Anne shrugged. “There are lots of people out there who want these technologies. The Professor and his colleagues seek to put the information in the hands of those who’ll benefit mankind.”
“So how do the Maya fit in?” John asked. “This is China, that’s Central America. Do we know when contact was first made?”
“No, that’s actually a piece of the puzzle we have to work out. Hopefully you two’ll solve it.”
Kathy Bennett felt something click in the back of her brain. Now confident in Anne’s driving, she leaned forward. “So, why are you here?”
Anne was unruffled. “Dr. Cruz called to let us know y’all were safe and tell the Professor what you‘d seen. Professor Braun put two and two together and flew me out here to be waiting. His timing was impeccable.”
Now that was an interesting choice of words, Kathy thought. He called to let him know we were safe. In light of the events at Xian the private boarding at Cancun now seemed more interesting. She wondered what they had been protected from and who was doing the protecting.
John was looking at Anne thoughtfully. “Will the Professor be joining us?”
“No.“ Anne said as she swerved around several tour buses. “He’s got an ongoing experiment involving DNA, radiation and carefully controlled microwaves. There’s one or two details he wants to observe so he couldn’t get away for the day. But he sends his regards.”
John smiled. “I remember those experiments. Like the time when he had us use those little electronic music player and earbuds. While you took the chip out he’d personally interview each of us. And we had to sit there because it was all class credit.”
Anne smiled. “He hasn’t changed. If he thinks a class is getting the course he’ll let’em participate in an experiment for a test grade.”
As the two went on reminiscing about Herr Professor Kathy ignored the fact he was field testing MP3 players and SD cards in 1995. She was annoyed, really annoyed. If John and Anne would stop discussing things like this maybe she could find out what was really going on.
Kathy didn’t like Anne Rutgers. Anne knew more than she was letting on. She remembered the way they talked to her and was beginning to wonder if Anne knew her real identity. Of course, if they were involved in high end R&D they might have that level of clearance. But they hadn’t been in the briefing about this mission.
And she wondered about the age of the two. Anne didn’t just seem to be in her early thirties, she was in her early thirties. The Professor had seemed to be in his late thirties and now she wondered exactly how old these two were. John’s statement that they hadn’t changed in fifteen years took on new meaning in light of their level of research. Kathy wondered if they had some cutting edge technology that reduced signs of aging. Or maybe Anne was just a health nut who took real good care of her skin.
Kathy leaned back, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She knew how she was sounding. Her Company training dealt as much with what was in her head as what was around her and now it kicked in. Agents in the field didn’t have the luxury of pretending what was so wasn’t and she applied it to the current situation.
Kathy knew she was responding wrong to Anne because of John. She admitted she liked the guy and Anne made her jealous. It was a freeing admission. Suddenly she could look at Anne in a whole new light. Anne and John did not have that kind of relationship. First, Anne would have been faculty and John a student. Second, Kathy’s intuition told her Anne and the Professor had been more than friends for at least fifteen years. And he was a very prestigious man with many resources.
Of course this opened an even bigger can of worms. What did this say about her relationship with John? Yeah, definitely a bigger issue.
Now John was asking Anne about restaurants and shops around the college that had been there fifteen years ago. Kathy focused on her relationship with John. It was a good one, he trusted her with his back, but could he trust her with more? She had lied to him— was still lying to him— and what did her feelings about that say about her? Maybe John was just her rebound boyfriend. She hadn’t slept with him, but she hadn’t slept with Greg, either. Yeah, she could easily be using him to get over Greg.
Kathy Bennett closed her eyes. Wow, this was all way too complicated. She needed a therapist to tell all of this to then pay to manage it. She wanted to be honest with John and not hurt him. She could see her relationship with Greg was dysfunctional, influenced by the desire to meet social pressure. Maybe she was compensating for a job she couldn’t brag about. Maybe she had unresolved issues with a father who spent most of his time at sea.
She opened her eyes. It was going to be a long drive down to the only bridge across the Brahmaputra River. Despite what Anne said Kathy knew she had six hours to reflect on all this. Then she spotted the sleek black helicopter painted with dull, flat radar-absorbing black paint. As it flew just above the river’s surface, below radar, she recognized it as a Eurocopter EC120, called the Colibri—French for hummingbird. Significantly the international group that designed it had included China who had several in their service.
Anne stopped the MDX in the middle of the road overlooking wide fields and the wider Brahmaputra as the helicopter closed on them. As it turned and landed in front of the SUV Anne opened her door and yelled to the other two. “Come on!”
Grabbing their bags Kathy and John followed her to the chopper. A man in a black suit and Ray Ban sunglasses had gotten out of the rear seat and Kathy took his place. As they flew back toward the river she could see him driving the SUV on down the road toward the town of Nedong, near the single bridge over the Brahmaputra.