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CHAPTER 3


A CHANGE OF LOCALE

Before focusing on South Africa, Robert wanted to get a better sense of how the ancient building in the Catskills fit into the surrounding topology. He threw a pair of binoculars into the passenger seat of his car and drove to an outcrop that was locally well known for affording a view of the area. Looking down from the mountain with the binoculars, he located his father’s house and the road that led up to the archaeological site. Scanning the area, he made out a straight ridge that ran east to west. That’s the buried building, he thought. They must have held it in great esteem to go to such lengths to preserve it.

Returning to the site, he picked a spot on top of the large ridge that covered the building and dug into the earth until he uncovered a hard surface. He examined this surface and determined that it was composed of the same plastic material that had enclosed the entrance to the building in the cave. He concluded that a huge shell surrounded the entire building.

He built and installed a secure camouflaged cover for the cave entrance and covered the square stone with soil and leaves. It was time to make plans for a solo expedition to South Africa.

Although Kholoruuf’s map provided exact measurements, Robert assumed that once in the new site’s vicinity, he would still need to make a search. The first step would be to see whether he could find references to any mysterious archaeological discoveries that might have been made in or around Melkbosstrand.

An entire month of research at the New York Public Library turned up only one significant item—but that item supplied a major clue: an obscure South African science journal had printed a paragraph from a letter attributed to an astronomer, Sir John Herschel, son of the more famous astronomer Sir William Herschel. The letter was written in the 1830s to John Herschel’s friend Charles Babbage. John Herschel had traveled to South Africa and set up an observatory at Wynberg. In addition to astronomy, Herschel was interested in botany and geology. He wrote:

Thomas [Maclear] tells about a farmer who described to him Nell’s Rock, near Cape Town, as being composed of an unusual waxlike or hornlike stone, one small face of which had, at some point in the past, been polished and inscribed with an enigmatic sign composed of two intersecting circles, side by side, surmounted by a circle and with a diamond underneath, which the farmer had drawn for him.


Robert suspected at once that the site referred to in the letter was the site he was looking for. “Near Cape Town” was vague, but he had learned from the map that the location of the rock, or the small hill, must be near Melkbosstrand.

A library and Internet search for “Nell’s Rock” uncovered only a recreational area in Connecticut. It was time to go to South Africa.

Did he know anyone with a Cape Town connection? Yes. Kevin Sorrell, a sociologist he’d met in London at a conference, owned a place in an upscale Cape Town suburb called Fresnaye—Kevin had pronounced it “Fray-nay”—and had offered to rent part of the house to Robert, if Robert should ever want to vacation there.

Robert had kept in contact with Kevin over the years and had written to him about his dad’s passing. Kevin was now living with his wife and son in London but still had the house in Fresnaye.


“Hi, Kevin. It’s Robert Bennett in America,” Robert said when he called Kevin. “How are you doing?”

“Oh. Hi, Robert. Good to hear from you. I’m doing very well. And you?” Kevin spoke with a Capetonian accent.

“I’m good. I’m at Dad’s house…the one in upstate New York. Just clearing things out.”

“That can be tough.”

“Yeah. But you know, when I was going through my own things, in my childhood bedroom, I came across something that put me on a very interesting archaeological path. I really want to tell you about it, but…ah…I have to…Well, I have to be completely secretive about it at this stage. I’m sorry,” he said.

“Well, Robert, that’s very, very, mysterious. So something perhaps forgotten from your childhood now influences your future.”

“I promise, as soon as I can tell anyone about it, I’ll tell you first.”

“Hmm. Now you’ve made me very curious. Secret archaeology.”

“I’m calling because this project, as it turns out, is taking me to South Africa of all places, and I was wondering if you still have that place available there and if I might be able to rent for a while. It might be as long as a year.”

“You’re going to South Africa? Really? Well, no…I have a couple of tenants in the Fresnaye house now, but…uh…” he said, pondering the question. “Actually you can use the guesthouse. No one’s living there now. In fact you can stay there for free.”

“I don’t mind paying rent, Kevin. Really. Not at all. You know, Dad left me a pretty big inheritance.”

“Nah. You can stay there for free. It’ll be good to have someone else there to kind of watch the place. You can be a welcome guest in the guesthouse.”

“That’s great, Kevin. Thanks so much. I’m thinking I may be going there very soon.”

“You can move in tomorrow, as far as I’m concerned,” Kevin said. “I’ll call the tenants on the ground floor and tell them to expect you—and you can get the key from them.”

“Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.”

“Now you’ll have me wondering what this archaeological project of yours actually could be. Hmm. Very interesting. Listen, you’ll love the place. It’s choice real estate. It’s way up there on Lion’s Head, and there’s a pretty nice view from the guesthouse. If you have a pen handy, I’ll give you the address.”

After the call, Robert transferred the image files of his discoveries to a flash drive and put his hard drive into a safe-deposit box at a local bank.

The guesthouse really was choice. It was the first time Robert had been to Cape Town, and the city enthralled him. From the front windows of the guesthouse, looking down across Avenue Saint Bartholomew, he saw, between rooftops and tropical plantings, the blue water of the ocean, and from the front patio, the whole stretch of the sea was visible. He had rented a car at the airport, driven to the house, and gotten the key from Mr. Besch, one of the first-floor tenants. Now he was unpacking his things.

It was about three fifteen in the afternoon. Kevin had warned Robert to be careful walking about in Cape Town, or even driving in certain areas, at night, so he decided this would be a good time of day to take a drive to a grocery store and stock up. He rang the Besches’ bell and asked Mr. Besch where he might do some shopping. The man suggested a place on Regent Road in nearby Sea Point. Robert locked his front security door, drove to the store, and brought back enough food to fill the refrigerator. He spent three hours setting up his computer, ate dinner, listened online to Beethoven’s “Kreutzer Sonata,” and got ready for bed. As he emptied his pockets, he pulled out the envelope that contained the silver-and-gold key case. He’d hurriedly put it into his pocket on his way out of the house in New York. Now, he wrapped it carefully in a towel and placed it on the closet shelf behind some folded shirts.

The next day Robert got up at 7:00 a.m., feeling well-rested. He threw open the big front windows to let in the warm, fragrant morning air. What a beautiful city, he thought.

The town of Melkbosstrand, whose name means “Milkwood Beach,” was about thirty miles up the coast from Fresnaye. With as much precision as he could, he would first drive up to the spot he’d identified as the place where Kholoruuf’s house lay buried, just to see what was there. If he didn’t see Nell’s Rock sitting there—and he fully expected not to—he’d chalk up the misstep to bad calculations and return to Cape Town to do some more investigating.

After breakfast he drove to Melkbosstrand. He had researched the route and had no trouble getting there. Just to get a sense of the place, he drove along Beach Road. The town impressed him as being a pretty, lively, seaside village.

But he knew exactly where he wanted to go. He turned onto one of the avenues and drove southeast then just a little way out of town. He pulled over at the place he’d calculated would be nearest to the site, near enough to the exact spot to be able to see whether a hill was there. He got out, placed a pair of binoculars to his eyes, and scanned the more or less open landscape.

As he’d expected, nothing jumped out as unusual. There were low hills, fairly far from the road, but nothing that stood out as an example of the mound builder’s art, and he couldn’t see how any of the hills might be called a “rock.” He got back into the car and drove around the area. He saw more small and medium-size hills but nothing especially interesting.

Next step: more research, Robert thought. He’d compiled a list of archaeological and geological groups in the area, and he would now inquire at each about Nell’s Rock.

He went first to the department of archaeology at the University of Cape Town, where he spoke with several faculty members. None of them, however, ever had heard of Nell’s Rock. They took Robert’s number and said they’d ask around. He didn’t mention the symbol that supposedly was carved into it, but it was because of the carving that he felt archaeologists might be familiar with it. Then he checked with the geology department and got identical results.

Next, from the university, he phoned the Cape Town office of the Archaeological Society. He spoke to a council member of some standing in the archaeological community—Robert recognized the name—who also was unaware of the existence of any such rock and who also took Robert’s number.

The next day Robert bought a used white ’87 Toyota 4Runner and returned his rental car.

He decided that, no matter how his search went, he would not be returning to the university in August. He would repay his salary along with the health care and retirement contribution that the institution had paid on his behalf during his sabbatical. He called the Office of Faculty Affairs to inform them of his decision.

He spent the next three months following up on other leads but had no luck. He also went back up to the field in Melkbosstrand several times. He talked to the neighbors and received permission to enter the land to investigate—but nothing came of it.

Near the end of September, he decided to move his focus to another piece of terrain, a field a little to the south of the first that contained a number of hills that looked promising. He drove up to the field and parked. Standing on the road, Robert scanned the field. The landscape in this area was more rugged than at the previous site. The hills rose more abruptly from the surrounding terrain, looking much more like Robert’s mental image of what Nell’s Rock might look like. But nothing seemed particularly anomalous.

It was still early, so he decided to investigate an archaeological data center and reading room in Cape Town whose address he recently had discovered on the Internet. He drove down to Kloof Street and parked near the address. From there he walked half a block to the tiny storefront on whose window was neatly painted, ARCHAEOLOGY READING ROOM. He opened the glass door and went in. Inside were two tables with computers on them and several wooden chairs. Bookshelves filled with books lined three walls.

A pleasant-looking middle-aged woman seated at a desk at the far end of the room looked up.

“Hello,” Robert said.

“Hello,” the woman replied. “May I help you?” Her accent was American.

“I hope so.” Robert walked over to the desk. “I’m trying to get information about something but haven’t had much luck.”

“What is it? I’ll try to help.”

“I’m looking for information on a geological feature in this area called ‘Nell’s Rock.’ Have you ever heard of it, or can you suggest how I might be able to track it down?”

The woman raised an eyebrow when he mentioned the name of the rock. Robert thought for a moment that the name might be familiar to her.

“No,” she said. “No, that’s not something I’ve heard of at all. Do you know any more about it?”

“Not really, just that it’s quite large.”

“Do you have any idea—even a rough idea—where it’s located?”

“I think it’s in Melkbosstrand,” Robert said, and immediately wished he hadn’t. He wanted the details of his investigation to be as covert as possible.

The woman raised an eyebrow again and wrote “Melkbos” on a piece of paper. “I’ve never heard of such a thing,” she said. “Please give me your name and number, and I’ll ask around. I know some people who might know.”

Robert gave her his name and number and she wrote it down.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t give you any information,” she said. “I hope you get your answer.”

It was now past two o’clock, and Robert stopped in at a pizza place on Kloof Street for lunch. He finished eating at about ten minutes of three and decided it wasn’t too late in the day to go up to Melkbosstrand again to check out the field that had become his new focus.

Traffic wasn’t good, and it was early evening when he got back to the field he had surveyed earlier that day. He parked, got out, and scanned the field with his binoculars. I’ll have to find a way to check out each of those little hills, he thought. Am I going to have to investigate every big rock and hill along this whole coast one by one? And it may not even be here.

Wat sien jy?

Robert took the binoculars from his eyes and turned to see a brown-haired boy, about nine or ten, in blue jeans and a red-and-white striped T-shirt. “What? I’m…I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

“What do you see?” the boy asked, switching from Afrikaans to heavily accented English.

“I’m looking for big rocks or odd-looking hills. Do you know of any around here? Have you ever heard of Nell’s Rock?”

“No. I never heard of that,” the boy said.

Great. Another dead end, Robert thought. He’d planned to talk to the people here, but only if other means failed. If the neighborhood kids don’t know about it, I’ve got a problem.

The boy looked at a beetle crawling on his own shoulder and swiped it off. “Nell’s Koppie,” he said, almost under his breath.

Robert felt a chill. “What?”

“Nell’s Koppie,” the boy said again. He pointed into the field. “It’s over there. It’s got a picture on it.”

A surge of excitement coursed through Robert. He knew, from his archaeological studies, that the word koppie was Afrikaans for “hill“—and this koppie had a picture on it. He couldn’t believe his good luck. The calculations had been right on and had brought him to within a half mile of the site. He’d begun to think his search would be a protracted one—perhaps lasting many years—yet it looked as if he’d achieved his goal in only three months. “Could you show it to me?” he asked.

“Sure. I can take you there.”

“I’m Robert,” he said, holding out his hand.

The boy shook his hand. “I’m Willem.”

Willem took Robert down to the corner and walked with him up the road toward a house and driveway.

“Are you an American?” the boy asked.

“Yes. Is this your house?”

“No. This is Mr. de Bruin’s house. That’s him there.” He gestured toward a rather disheveled-looking man dressed in tan trousers and an undershirt who was pushing a wheelbarrow filled with dirt across his backyard. The boy shouted to Mr. de Bruin, “He wants to see Nell’s Koppie.”

Mr. de Bruin frowned, paused, waved his hand as in disgust, and went back to work.

“It’s on his land,” Willem said, “but he doesn’t mind us taking a look at it.”

“He seemed a little upset.”

“Ah, he’s all right. He’s just like that.”

Robert followed Willem into the scrub. “Any snakes in here?” he asked the boy.

“You might see a koperkapel in the grass or a boomslang in a tree. Just stay on the path and watch where you step.”

They arrived at a grass-and-bush-covered hill, the northeastern part of which appeared to be a large multifaceted rock or complex of rocks. Robert looked up at the koppie. It was big enough to have a large house inside it. Willem led Robert over to a flat, vertical surface on the rock and knelt, pointing to a place near the ground. “There’s the picture,” he said.

Robert bent down and looked. There he could make out a group of inscribed lines that delineated precisely the same symbol he’d discovered in the cave in the Catskills. He carefully examined the surface itself. Unlike the gray plastic in the New York cave, this material had the variegated color of a natural rock, but there was a translucency to it. He took out his penknife and sliced into a rough part of it, cutting off a sliver. “Strange, huh?” he said.

On their way off the property, Robert stopped and introduced himself to Mr. de Bruin, who was now sitting on his back porch.

“Hi,” he said. “My name is Robert Bennett. I’m an archaeologist.”

The man seemed not to want to be bothered but was polite enough. “Pieter de Bruin,” he said.

“So this is all your property here?” Robert asked.

Ja, out to the next road way over there.”

“That’s a very interesting koppie over there, Pieter.”

“I don’t call it interesting. I call it weird.”

“Have any idea who drew that diagram in the rock?”

“No, I don’t. It’s been there as long as my family’s owned it, and that’s a long time.”

Robert nodded and looked toward the hill. “Has there been any archaeological work done on it that you know about, since your family owned it?”

“No. And if there had been, I’d know about it.”

“What would you think about some kind of an archaeological excavation being done there now?”

“I wouldn’t be for that, Robert.”

“I’d be willing to pay for permission.”

Pieter sat back in his chair and smiled. “Well, that’s another story,” he said.

Robert ended up with a signed agreement with Pieter that gave him permission to excavate at the koppie for six months, starting from the first excavation, in exchange for thirty thousand rand, which converted to a little more than three thousand dollars.

As he drove back to Fresnaye, he thought about Nell’s Koppie. How could it have remained intact for fourteen thousand years? It made sense to him actually. For thousands of years, the inner shell had been buried in an earthen structure of perhaps the same height as Monk’s Mound in Illinois (but conceivably much smaller in length and width) that looked like a natural hill among many similar natural hills. In recent times perhaps, part of the shell had been uncovered, but since then, Nell’s Koppie remained the property of a single family and was simply ignored.

How easily everything had come together for him! Incredibly, in just three months he had found what he had been looking for.

Thanks to the precision of Kholoruuf’s map, Robert found the right field on the second try. But he was amazed he’d been correct in the first place about the Sphinx as being the origin of Kholoruuf’s coordinates. He was also amazed he could identify the exact hill so easily.

I must be getting assistance from the cosmic powers, he mused.

Now Robert faced a dilemma: Section thirty-five of the South African National Heritage Resources Act required a permit to excavate the site, but getting a permit would make the site known to the South African government. If the government were to learn what was interred within Nell’s Koppie, it might decide to take the property over (with compensation, of course, to Pieter). And if they realized the advantages to appropriating Atlanian high technology, officials might initiate a wholesale cover-up.

Robert’s mission was to make sure that never would happen.

He could start to excavate without a permit, and if the government got wind of it, the consequences might not be severe. But Robert wanted to obey the country’s laws. An application for permission might not need to be specific; after all, he wasn’t sure there was a house inside the hill. How could he describe his “full motivation” on the application form? He needed to mull it over.

The next day he pulled his 4Runner out onto Avenue Saint Bartholomew and headed north to take another look at the site. He didn’t notice the black Mazda pull out from the curb and begin to follow him.

Robert drove up to the Melkbosstrand field again, parked, and wearing high boots this time, hiked over to the koppie.

The Mazda pulled up to the side of the road some distance away.

Robert looked closely at the engraved diagram and took some photos of it and of the rest of the hill. If it’s OK with Pieter, I’ll put a security fence around the hill, he thought.

Using a laser distance measurer, he took key measurements and jotted them down in his notebook. After examining other accessible parts of the koppie, he drove back to Fresnaye.

Robert spent the next day at the guesthouse working on an application for permission to excavate. He also created a rough map of the site using the measurements he had taken as well as his photographs.

In the evening a storm moved over the Western Cape. Robert was in the kitchen when his doorbell rang. He went to the door, turned on the porch light, and looked out the door’s window. No one was there. When he opened the door and looked out, he found a note taped to the door. Over the sound of the rain, he heard a car door slam. Then he heard a car pull away and drive north on the avenue. He brought in the note and read it. It had been typed on a word processor.

Dr. Bennett,

This evening the site you discovered, Nell’s Koppie, and the land around it, has been expropriated. Pieter de Bruin will be compensated. You have led these people to something they have been seeking for years. They intend to contact you soon to find out how much you know. It is imperative that you go to them first, without delay—but it could be dangerous for you to approach them while they are at the koppie before you’ve been invited.

They are the Grayling Conservancy. Tell them that someone at SAHRA has told you this.

Regardless of what they tell you, they are set on seeing to it that the public will never learn about any part of this discovery. That is how zealously they will guard any technology they find. And they will sell whatever they find to the highest bidder.

I know you, and I know you believe this site’s cultural treasures must be made known to the world. If you can convince these people that you know what is within the koppie, they will want you to work with them, and you can influence what happens only if you work with them. If you have knowledge about what is inside the koppie, tell them some of what you know but not everything. Be warned: If it becomes clear to them that you know more than what you’ve told them, your home and possessions will not be safe.

These people are not to be trusted—they can be dangerous. Be careful.

Robert knew that SAHRA was the South African Heritage Resources Agency. But “I know you”? Who could have written this note? Robert wondered. Who do I know who could have written this?

Although it was already eleven thirty at night, Robert put on a raincoat, got in his 4Runner, and drove in the rain up to Melkbosstrand. He went to a spot where he could watch the hill without being seen. Sure enough, the area around Nell’s Koppie was lit up. Several white SUVs and a black van were parked in the field next to the koppie, and people in rainwear were installing a security fence.

How could I have led them here? he wondered. How did they catch on to what I was up to? He thought about his visit to the archaeology reading room, where he’d communicated a little more information than he’d intended. They’ve been looking for this for a long time. What better way to track archaeological activities in the area than to operate a data center within a reading room?

The writer of the note was right. The site had been taken over. He turned around and went back to Fresnaye.

That night Robert did an Internet search and found the location of the Grayling Conservancy. It was on Rheede Street in Cape Town. He thought about what an intruder might find in any of his houses. He had brought all his notes relating to the site in the Catskills with him to South Africa. He opened his desk drawer and took out the stack of notes. Looking through them he realized none of them could lead anyone to the site. To throw any intruder off, he took a sheet out and wrote in pencil a set of numbers on it, simulating the notes someone might make if he were adding up costs. He wrote “lira” after a couple of the numbers, and “kurus” after another. He smiled. Maybe they’ll think I found the site in Turkey, he mused.

To get rid of references to the car, with its high technology, he copied, by hand, the two pages of notes where the car was mentioned, leaving out any mention of it. He folded the original two pages and put them in his pocket to throw away somewhere. Next he copied the map of the first cave but left out the car and stuck the original in his pocket. He also removed all references to the note and map that Kholoruuf had left in the Hall of Shields. Then he put the stack of notes back into the drawer. He got a slice of bread, scattered a few tiny bread crumbs on the top sheet, and very carefully closed the drawer.

He would keep his flash drive, with the image files on it, in his pocket.

Satisfied that there was now nothing in any of his residences to reveal the location of the site in the Catskills, and no mention of the car technology, not even in his computers, he went to bed.

Early the next morning, Robert drove to the offices of the Grayling Conservancy. As it turned out, they were about a block from the archaeological reading room on Kloof Street. He parked and walked into the building. He found himself in a foyer, facing a door, with a door to the left and one to the right. The door to the right was marked, GRAYLING, so he opened it and walked in.

It was like walking into someone’s living room, except a receptionist desk stood along part of the far wall, to the right of a wide, closed door. Robert noticed the large paintings, landscapes mostly, hanging on the royal-yellow walls. There was an expensive-looking sofa against the wall to his left, and several rather elegant wooden chairs here and there around the room. The ambiance was clearly meant to be comfortable and welcoming, yet he felt he would not be welcome here.

An attractive, slender, black woman in a deep-blue dress sat behind the desk.

“Hello,” Robert said.

The woman turned from her computer screen and looked at him.

When he realized there would be no response, he spoke again. “I believe people here might want to talk to me.” he said. “My name is Robert Bennett.”

“Professor Orten is just on his way out of the building, but perhaps he can see you.” The woman had an American accent. She threw the switch on her intercom and spoke into it. “Robert Bennett is here.”

“I’ll be right out,” said a male voice on the other end.

Professor Orten. The name rang a bell for Robert. George Orten was a well-known archaeologist in the United States. In fact Robert had spoken to him briefly at a conference. Could this be the same man? he wondered.

After a few moments, the wide door opened.

Robert recognized George Orten immediately. He was a tall, balding man with a round face. At the conference, Orten had been wearing a suit, but now he was dressed in gray trousers and a wrinkled blue-denim shirt open at the collar.

“Hello, Dr. Bennett!” Orten said with a smile that seemed overly expansive and probably insincere. “We’ve met, haven’t we?”

“Dr. Orten, yes, in Vancouver.”

“Yes, I remember that. Please come in.”

They went into Orten’s office. It had the same expensive ambiance as the reception area, but there were two sofas in the room and more chairs than in the reception area. Orten closed the door and sat behind his desk. “Please take a seat, doctor,” he said.

Robert sat in the armchair that faced the desk.

“How are you doing?” Orten asked, still coming across as being a little too friendly.

“Fine, Professor. I heard you might want to talk to me about a certain discovery I made.”

“Where did you hear that?” Orten asked, still smiling and seemingly surprised.

“I’ve got friends at SAHRA.”

Orten’s smile broadened. “And who at SAHRA told you that?” he asked.

“I’d rather not say.”

Orten stopped smiling, looked down, and shuffled some papers on his desk. “Oh. All right. I see.” He looked up at Robert. “Ah, well it’s true,” he said. His tone was still friendly. “I wanted to ask you some questions—things I’m curious about…if you don’t mind answering them.”

“I don’t mind,” Robert said, “and I was hoping you could answer some questions too. For instance why you took over my site.”

Orten smiled again. “What I’m most curious about…What is your interest in Nell’s Koppie?”

Robert sat back in the chair. “I read a letter written by John Herschel to his friend Charles Babbage that described it. He called it ‘Nell’s Rock.’”

“I’ve seen that entry in that journal. But how did you know it was at Melkbosstrand?”

“Someone I spoke to said they thought they knew the rock and it might be there,” said Robert. “Actually I’m not sure who it was. Do you have anything to do with the archaeology reading room around the corner?”

Orten rested his elbows on the desk and leaned forward. “Tell me, Dr. Bennett, why are you so interested in that hill? Or…let me put it this way: Do you have any idea what is to be found at Nell’s Koppie that would interest us archaeologists?”

Remembering what the mysterious note had advised, Robert told him, “I believe there’s a house buried there, a whole house—from a culture that was flourishing at the end of the Pleistocene epoch.”

Orten looked at Robert and nodded slowly several times. “And what makes you think that?”

“I have my secrets, Professor.”

“Ah! OK.” Orten stood up. “I guess we all have secrets. Look. You must be angry at us for taking over like we did. I’m sorry, but it’s just the way it had to be done—so we did it.” His eyebrows raised, he looked at Robert. “It’s legal. The conservancy even owns the land now. Why don’t you come up there tomorrow, and I’ll let you see what we’ve discovered so far. I run the show up there, so you won’t have any problem getting in. Come up tomorrow night, after dark, because we’ll be putting up security fences tomorrow during the day. But remember it’s important that we don’t blab about this to people—you know, you’ve been guarded about it yourself. But since you know about the site already, you might as well take a look.”

“I’d like to see it,” Robert said, getting up.

Orten guided Robert to the door and opened it. Then they shook hands. “Good,” Orten said. “See you then.”

Robert left the building thinking about how he hadn’t been able to ask the professor many questions, but he figured there would be time for that later. He had expected to be angry at Orten and his group for what they had done, but he wasn’t. What he felt instead was a sense of acceptance at what seemed a fait accompli, a little fear, and an eager anticipation that hadn’t dissipated.

To next chapter (Chapter 4)