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Posted 20 November 2017
From a Time Before
The Expedition to Malo-Moko Island

By Richard Messer

Chapter 12

A serial story

From a Time Before
The Expedition to Malo-Moko Island
© 2017 by Richard Messer

Chapter 12

Gone! The whole market square was . . . gone!

James Baxter stood at the stone railing, staring down into what had once been the center of the town as he remembered it from his dreams! But all that had vanished, and replaced by a massive grove of some kind of deciduous trees! Not one sign of those green-tiled roofs or red painted doors and windows set into whitewashed walls!


The sound of heavy breathing came up behind the young buck, but he didn’t turn around. Sir Albert Wednesday stopped at the railing, panting heavily, as he too stared out across the green fastness spread out before them.

“Where’s, where’s this town, you spoke of, lad!” he wheezed, his large brown eyes glancing this way and that, taking in the scene before him.

For a long minute there were no words exchanged between them; the chimpanzee trying to recover his breath while the whitetail buck could only look out over the tops of the trees, his eyes wide with terror and fear.

From the stone wall that dropped down into branches below, the whole of the town as James Baxter remembered had been replaced by tall straight trees that spread far and wide. Not a single structure remained; either engulfed by the grove, or had simply been replaced by the vast spreading woodlands.

To the south the young buck could barely see the bay, the bright waters glittering in the sunlight. Not a single warehouse, let alone a ship, could be seen as the green marched its way in that direction and over the hills beyond. At least he thought of that direction as being south. And to the west could barely be seen what remained of fields that had laid fallow for what could have been decades, or centuries. The trees there had grown into a giant forest that continued, unimpeded, towards those distant hills.

Finally, the buck spoke. “Here!” He made a weak gesture of spreading his arms towards the trees. “It was all right here! The market square was over there, with houses – apartments – surrounding it all! And streets ran in that direction and that direction!”

He first pointed southwards, then westward, all the while describing the structures and their makeup, then laid out the market with its colorful stalls and the population that thronged there with his hands.

“And right there (he indicated what would have been the apartment that was in his dreams), I was standing on the balcony when that procession worked its way down from this temple mount to the street below.”

With rapid steps Baxter followed the stone railing until he came to a break, and the plaza formed a ramp that gently curled downwards into the leafy barrier at its base. Several yards below the buck could see that the stones had been upset by saplings pushing up through them.

Turning back towards the following English ape, the young American then said, “My guess is that the procession formed up here, and the trumpet blasts told the shoppers below that they were coming.”

“Who was coming?” The older archaeologist squinted at his colleague.

Baxter paused to form his thoughts. “I believe they would be a delegation from the ‘temple’, if that is what this complex is. The ‘priests and priestesses’ of whatever this governmental operation is, or was, and were coming down to spread whatever news they deemed worthy to pass onto the ‘supplicants’.

“Or, to put it more into a modern context, they were letting the rest of the population know how things were going on in their ‘corner of the universe’ and everything was peachy-keen!”

The English archaeologist could only nod his great head, accepting the younger fellow’s line of logic for now. He looked back the way they came, taking in the size of the domed structure from which they had exited, when he suddenly realized the massive scale of it.

“My God!” the ape breathed as he stare at it. “That damn place is huge!”

Sir Albert nearly bellowed that last pronouncement. He turned to stare wide-eyed at the American while waving a heavy hand towards the dome. James Baxter eyed the other curiously before looking back himself. The young whitetail buck studied the size of the dome, and thought back to when they first arrived here (wherever the hell ‘here’ was), then the roaming around the ‘Operations Center’, the corridor that housed both ‘Transmission’ and ‘Receiving’ offices to either side, and the vast atrium with its stone archways and ornate fountain. And the enormity of it all hit him right between the eyes!

“Shit!” was all that he could say at the realization of what the two of them had just passed through!

They stared at each other for over a minute, as the discovery sank its way deep into their conscience. Then they slowly turned to study the plaza and its structures all around them.

What could have been described as a southeasterly direction, arose that great dome with its glass panels set in between the stone arches. To the north was that squat, truncated tower on which Baxter had seen the revolving disk slowly lift off into the sky before vanishing into the blue. Beyond the tower arose another low structure that appeared to be octagonal and surmounted by a translucent dome. And the whole plaza looked to cover, at least - in James Baxter’s mind - ten acres in area!

However, this was all dwarfed by a dark stone building that neither had noticed when they first came out onto the plaza. It stood to the west side of everything else, and was at least another story and a half above either the domes or the tower. The walls were not pierced by windows or any other openings that they could see, and seemed to have a slight leaning in of the walls as it arose from the plaza, and it was topped off by a gleaming hemispherical latticework of a dull silvery gray.

“It looks like Wardenclyffe,” the buck breathed in awe.

“Who?” the ape asked quizzically.

Without taking his gaze from that massive pile of masonry, Baxter continued.

“Not a ‘who’, Sir Albert, but a ‘what’. It was supposed to have been Nikola Tesla’s grandest experiment: The shining dream of broadcast power!

“It was built out on Long Island, New York, far from any habitation in the area at the time. One hundred and ninety feet tall it was, with steel grounding rods from each footing of the octagonal tower reaching into the earth another hundred and twenty feet! And it was all for both broadcasting electrical power for miles around, as well as wireless telegraphy! And it was constructed right after the turn of the century, too!”

Cudgeling his memory Sir Albert Wednesday couldn’t recall anything he ever heard or read about this event.

“What became of it, James?”

As a balloon slowly deflates, James Baxter let the air wheeze from his lungs as his shoulders sagged at the memory of what had been promised, and the reality that came quickly.

“I remember reading about it in an old electrical engineers publication on it. Ol’ Nike had fired it up one night to check out the equipment. The neighbors who lived far from the place reported a great blue glow above the trees, with lightning shooting into the sky. That was only time he ever ran it.

“Not long afterwards, lawyers from the George Westinghouse Company sued Tesla for back payments on loans, or something like that. Had a writ of cease and desist, with the express purpose of seizing the equipment for auction to recover the company’s monies. Even J.P. Morgan, who helped financed part of Tesla’s dreams, cut off all funding and threw his support behind Marconi’s bid of producing the first wireless telegraphy operation anywhere in the world.”

The young whitetail then turned to face the chimpanzee. “And that damn Italian used seventeen of Tesla’s patents to make his damn machine work, too!”

A large dark paw came up to forestall any more outbursts.

“Easy, lad, easy. I can understand your frustration over what had occurred in the past. But such outbursts are not going to help us in trying to figure out what this place truly is, and how it can help us in getting back home.”

There was warmth in those large brown eyes as they studied the young, and frustrated, buck. And Baxter knew that it wasn’t right for him to rail against what had happened so long ago. Still, if he believed that such a thing did truly exist in this world, then Nikola Tesla would enjoy being vindicated. Should they ever get back home. But on a whim at the moment, the American wandered towards the northern edge of the plaza, with a confused chimpanzee following behind.

A soft breeze, laden with a tang of salt, washed over the pair as they paused at the railing there to gaze out upon a magnificent scene. Below and to the left, the land fell away, still tree covered, but dropping far down to a broad white sand beach that curved to their right and out of sight. But to the north, that beach continued, and gracefully curved in then back out to a promontory that pointed like a finger to a sparkling sea!

Ape and buck could only stare in dumbstruck awe at the panorama before them. The land that ran to the point had risen to a tree-covered crest there. But beyond the point, the beach continued in an undulating manner ever northwards, with combers rolling frothy white onto that sand, then slide back out into that blue-green glassiness.

“I want to walk barefooted along that beach,” Baxter said in a small voice. “To feel that warm water wash over my toes.”

“Me, too,” answered the English aristocrat, “me, too.” He then turned back towards that towering structure. “But, we must away, as there is much more to explore, catalog, and try to figure out who build this city, and why.”

James Baxter had stepped back from the railing enough to lay his head down on arms crossed along the edge of the stone.

“Yeah, no rest for the wicked, I guess.”

Sir Albert had backed up until his backside was resting against the railing, thick arms in khaki sleeves crossed over an expanse of chest.

“I think I know how you’re feeling right now, James. All this work, with very little time for relaxation” He turned his attention to the west, noting how far down the sun was setting. “But we best get a move on as the evening hour approaches.”

This made the buck stand up to notice the lateness of the afternoon. He frowned.

“Had we spent the whole day exploring that structure there,” he motioned towards the far dome of glass and stone, “or has our sense of time been thrown off after coming here?”

The ape stood up and shouldered his knapsack.

“Can’t say, my boy, but I think it’s best that we find some form of shelter in that building there, and resume our exploration in the morning. However long that’ll take.”

The young American whitetail merely nodded as he fell in step with the peer as they headed towards that imposing tower topped by that pierced hemisphere.

“Too bad we didn’t have that yiffing camera! I’d like to see what some of your people at the society think of what we’ve found here!”

to be continued
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