When the jet touched down in Mali John Parker was satisfied with what he’d gotten done in the past two hours. Without knowing a lot about the buried pyramid connection he’d begun working on an article about train travel in China. Even though the trip to Tibet was off the record, their trip to Xian would make a great piece to sell.
But even if the 2012 story panned out, it would still have to be out of this world to save his job. Oscar Byrd’s office was filled with people who survived by catering to their boss. In return he gave them the easy, well paying stories and made excuses for them. But this meant Byrd was forced to rely on a core of hard working reporters to pick up the slack.
John knew his boss played games and figured this was one of them. Oscar would probably “let” John stay, but take his pound of flesh and force John to settle for lower commissions. It’d been done before.
Even if he finished a super story ahead of deadline he knew this story would still be too good for the likes of Oscar Byrd. Normally if he had a story of this quality he’d work over under the radar for a few months, polish it up and send it straight to the VIPs above Oscar. He’d done that with his Insects to Food story five years ago and when the Executive Editor sold it for three hundred grand there was nothing Byrd could do. But John had made his own bed and now he had to sleep in it. He had a deadline and wasn’t certain if he could make it.
At the workstation in front of him Kathy was busy learning more about Timbuktu and ufology. The plane’s workstation couldn’t access to any of the “special” databases she was used to, but it had amazing amount of the information she could use. Cryptozoology, crypto-archaeology, speculative science, myths and legends were exhaustively covered in it. Even if this sort of eclectic information was in The Company databases somewhere they probably wouldn’t admit it.
Timbuktu had been a trading center hundreds of years ago. War, conflict and colonialism eventually shifted trade routes elsewhere nut the city remained a center of Muslim and sub-Saharan manuscript research. With over a million manuscripts thought to be in the city several libraries and institutes there were dedicated to their preservation.
There was an equally interesting connection to their investigation further south in Mali. The Dogon people had advanced astronomical knowledge and a curious mythology that seemed implied contact with extraterrestrial visitors. Conventional wisdom dictated the knowledge had come from visiting Europeans. But there were just as many articles suggesting not everyone was quite so certain.
Kathy was glad for the official sanction for her to work on this story. She was very invested in John’s article and it was a relief for it to be part of her job. Her personal reasons to for helping him wouldn’t exactly hold water with Langley.
To most westerners Timbuktu was a letdown from the exotic, famous trading center they expected to find. It had definitely seen better days. But they failed to see what lay behind the seemingly typical Saharan city. Beneath the surface it still held a huge cultural and historical significance.
The trip from Mississippi had only taken about two hours and it was only 9:15 when they touched down.  Compared to other airports Kathy had been to Timbuktu wasn’t bad. The single runway was cement, long and in good shape. The facilities weren’t great, but they were just passing through. Even as the black jet idled to a stop three ever present black Acura MDXs pulled next to it.

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