The Project Chapter 1

It certainly had been a busy week for Alex Russom. On Monday, he had worn a tee-shirt to school that had promptly gotten him suspended, on Tuesday his father had returned from Phoenix on a business trip found out about the incident and had charged off to Alex's school where he made school administrator break down crying, and had the cops called on him. On Wednesday, both his parents were in consultation with a close friend of his uncle's who specialized in suing schools that tended to adhere to their zero tolerance policy just a little too rigidly. On Thursday, his girlfriend stopped talking to him and ignored his texts, probably because her mother was a member of the school board and now one of the people named in the lawsuit. His best friend Wyatt Thomas was ignoring him as well, Alex suspected him of lusting after Palmer so naturally he would take her side.

The cause of it all was an innocuous tee-shirt that said,

"The Original Homeland Security," Showing a band of Apache Indians holding Winchester rifles. Alex was told that the shirt was deemed offensive and showed images of the hated gun. He was given the option of removing the shirt or turning it inside out. Well, anyone that knew Alex knew that wasn't going to happen, he tried arguing with the principal but it was like talking to a brick wall,

"It's just a tee-shirt; you see them all over,"

"We can't have pictures of guns being displayed in school, you know the rules!"

At that point, he came very close to getting the school security officer sicced on him for what he was tempted to say but he had faith in his father to go to bat for him.

So that's where things stood at this point, it looked like the wheels of justice would take a little time to wind up, so Alex loaded his camping gear on his ATV and headed out into the San Juan mountains right behind his house for a weekend camping trip and an opportunity to sort things out in his mind.

Alex traveled for well over an hour on a torturous trail that took him to a long abandoned ghost town. He and Wyatt discovered it almost two years ago purely by accident. Both were sure there had been a road through here at one time, but over the years washouts a forest fire and just plain neglect had obliterated all trace of the old mining camp. The only buildings left were what the boys assumed to be a bank and a jail both had been built from the local rock. Another building must have been a general store; it had survived due to the protection of a small stand of lodge pole pine. The remains of four other buildings were largely fallen in, although the whole place was rich in artifacts rusting away. There was also an old mine shaft nearby, but the boys were smart enough not to go in as there was already a partial cave-in and the support beams were completely rotted away. They did manage to remove a small ore cart, with plans to load it onto a cart Alex had attached to his ATV, but so far, they hadn't done that yet. As for the "town" neither knew what its name had been, but Wyatt had a book describing all sorts of similar towns and gold camps littering these mountains, however this one didn't seem to be listed. Another concern that had to be addressed was the ever present danger of rattlesnakes, and mountain lions. Alex was fortunate that his parents trusted him with a gun. Ever since he was ten, his father had taught him proper gun safety, in fact he had been on the school shooting team until that was eliminated last year. Alex carried a semi-auto version of the military's M4 carbine equipped with a red dot sight. He also carried a small .410 shotgun for killing snakes, which liked to den up under these old buildings, another reason he and Wyatt didn't go poking around too much.

There was also a small cemetery at one end of the gulch where the "town" was located, although the four wooden crosses had long since rotted away, but stones marked the graves.

The boys had built a tree house up in a very large cottonwood tree that stood near a dried up stream. There was a rocky outcrop nearby that a natural spring bubbled out of supplying water for not only the tree, but drinking water as well. The tree house was built from scavenged lumber, and pieces of sheet tin protecting them from lions that might climb the tree to get them, but from snakes, as well as the weather. The tree house was outfitted with a small table, and chest, as well as an old kerosene lantern. Twice when they had come here, it had rained, once rather hard, the tin roof kept them well protected. Alex arrived around two in the afternoon, parking under the tree, hauling his gear up with a rope.

He spent the rest of the afternoon exploring killing two snakes with his .410, as well as locating a few gold coins with his metal detector. Back up in his tree house, Alex fixed a meal of freeze-dried food the backpackers all liked. He also began to wonder how things were going to work out with his school situation, since being kicked out; he had been forced to re-evaluate everything he had believed about what he was being taught. He had no doubt he was in the right, his parents kept telling him that as well as some of the things he had read.

He also wondered how this would affect his graduation and chances of college. Under normal circumstances, he and his friends would be graduating next June, but now?

His mom had signed him up with a tutor until this school business was cleared up, but listening to his father and uncle talk, the school would really be hurting after they got done with them. That would mean hard feelings, and certainly the loss of Palmer Clark his girl friend. Right now he wasn't sure that was such a bad thing, he tried to bring her out here once, but she wouldn't have anything to do with it, she was out of her element here, malls were more to her liking. Alex finally drifted off to sleep, but woke up at one point thinking he heard approaching thunder.

Looking up at the tin roof, he grinned to himself, anticipating the sound of rain on the metal roof. In the morning, Alex looked out the small window expecting to see signs of rain, but everything was perfectly dry.

"Guess the rain just passed over," he thought to himself, not feeling hungry, he grabbed his rifle and shotgun, and climbed down the ladder. As he surveyed the area, he thought he saw a man standing near the cemetery. Taking a better look, he realized that it was a man, who wore a white beard, light brown pants some kind of dark brown vest, and a yellow shirt. Cautiously approaching, he stopped when the man turned to look at him. They stared at each other for a few moments, until the man held up his hand, and waved him over.

Alex made sure he could access his rifle quickly, if the man attempted to assault him, but continued forward. Suddenly, a peculiar feeling came over him; garbled images crossed his mind, but quickly passed.

"I won't hurt you boy," the man called out, "My name is Gideon Tate, and you are?"

"Uh, my name's Alex Russom," holding out his hand, the man added,

"Pleased to meet you Alex, tell me, what's the date today?" Alex gave him a puzzled look, but replied,

"It's September 27th, 2014, why do you ask?" the man replied,

"Well I've been traveling for awhile, kind of lost track of time. What are you doing here?"

"Um, well, I come here from time to time to go camping, and poke around these old ruins." The man seemed to be thinking about something, then looked at Alex and in a somber tone said,

"Alex, I've come a very long distance to die, and complete a project, would you help me?" Alex looked surprised as he asked.

"What do you mean you've come to die, you want me to kill you?" Gideon, laughed,

"Oh no, nothing of the kind, you see I am going to die, my life clock says so."

Holding up his right wrist, he revealed a fancy looking watch like jet pilots wore.

"Among other things, this is my life clock, it tells me how long I have to live, right down to the sec. I have eight "arr's" twenty-nine "min's" left, so I can't dawdle."

"What is it you want me to do?" Asked Alex,

"Well, I'm pretty old, eighty-nine to be exact, and digging my grave might be more than I'm capable of, I might have to have Arna help me, but I'm afraid she's never done this sort of thing before." Now he was even more puzzled than before,

"Who's this Arna?" He asked, Gideon smiled and pointed towards a small cleared area, then speaking to no one in particular, he said,

"Come Arna, all is safe." Alex turned towards the direction the man had been pointing to, and saw what looked like a naked woman emerge seemingly from nowhere.

All Alex could do was stare, at the figure walking towards them, she was definitely a woman, her breasts were very well developed, and Alex thought he could see her vagina, but then her color was all wrong. Although she wore long black hair, her skin seemed to be a gray metallic color, and she looked as though she wore some kind of abbreviated mask over her eyes. As she came closer, he thought she was wearing some sort of spacesuit or a body stocking, the mask was of a dark color, and were more like goggles, as he could now see her eyes. Alex tried to avert his eyes as she stood before him, not being used to naked women baring everything in front of him.

"This is Arna," said Gideon, she is a Motok, or android as I've heard them referred to, Arna, say hello to our young friend here." Arna held out her had, which Alex gently accepted,

"I am very pleased to meet you Alex, and I'm very sorry you cannot attend school and are being misunderstood." Now he was really confused, how did she know about all that? Studying her a bit closer, Alex now realized Arna wasn't human, but she sure was a damn good replica of one.

"Umm you said something about digging a grave?" questioned Alex.

"Oh yes," replied Gideon, if you could find something for me to sit on, and perhaps a large stone I can carve my name and epitaph on, I will tell you an incredible story concerning this place, or Coryville, as it was first named."

The man selected a spot in the center of the old cemetery, and scratched out a rough rectangle with his boot.

Alex brought a camp stool he had packed, as well as a shovel,

"There's a rock over there," he told Gideon, "But it's too heavy for me to lift."

"Gideon just grinned, as Arna followed Alex over to the indicated stone, lifting it with ease, and returning it to where Gideon was sitting on the stool. Alex started to drive the point of the shovel into the ground, when Gideon requested him to stop.

"Let Arna make things a little easier for you son, stand back a little please." Alex did as he was told, while he watched Arna trace a rectangular line in the ground with a glowing wand like device. The ground seemed to rumble, and a glowing line appeared in the soil.

"There, that should make the digging a little easier," said Gideon. Before he started to dig, Alex asked,

"Are you from outer space?" The old man laughed,

"Well, yes, and no, I was born on another planet, Z'ha'dum to be exact, but my roots are here in this place, my people were taken from this very place so very long ago, I was selected to return and let everyone know what happened to the people of Coryville, as you dig, I will explain."

Whatever that strange device did, it certainly made digging a breeze, thought Alex, it was just like shoveling loose gravel, the sides of the hole were almost like rock giving Alex the impression he was merely shoveling out a rectangular pit.

"It was in 1880 that the Neistra came," began Gideon, "They came in the night and just swooped up everybody, twenty-one men, and twelve women, gone in an instant. Well they took us to a planet called Z'ha'dum, where they put everyone to work mining Morbidium, and Duranix."

"They made slaves out of everyone?" Gasped Alex

"No, not really, they provided these strange looking shelters for everyone, plenty of food, and taught everyone how to operate the mining machines, even the women."

"How much did people have to mine," continued Alex, Gideon chuckled,

"The Neistra set rather low quotas and with the machines they taught everyone to use, we easily met them. We always exceeded the quotas usually an eight or nine arr day five or six days a week."

"What did these aliens look like?" asked Alex, Gideon shrugged,

"Can't really say, the Motok acted as their go-betweens, naturally we asked the androids, but none of them would ever say, even Arna here either just won't say or has been programmed not to. It doesn't really mater at this point, I left Z'ha'dum over thirty-nine years ago when I was in my prime, 'course I've made a few stops along the way, but now my race is almost run, after I'm gone, please make sure the records I'm carrying get to the authorities, consider everything else, including my ship, and Arna here…Yours."