William Westland and the Unholy Ziggurat

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William Westland and the Unholy Ziggurat

Postby Srf » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:18 pm

Boende, Motappaland - May 3, 1964

If it were possible to smoke a cigarette ironically, Pascal Jauvert would be doing just that. The swarthy half-Quiberonnais, half-Motappan man blew hazy blue smoke into the air with an exaggerated sigh and gazed over the view of Boende. From his elevated position atop the Hotel Cratoise, Motappaland's only 5* establishment, he could see the leafy private villas of the exclusive Gurumba neighborhood quickly giving way to the sprawling anthill-slums of Menge-Menge and Ngoranga. The very sight of them disgusted Pascal, and he silently shamed his white father for marrying a child of the slums. Scoffing, he took another drag on his cigarette.

"Something bothering you?" Pascal turned to the speaker; a white, fair haired man in casual linen slacks and shirt with a leather satchel slung across his side. Pascal shook his head, immediately defensive.

"Only that you are late Brannigan, you Anglo asshole. I'm surprised you are able to even show your face around here without being strung up".

"Oh, the Mbenga business?" The other man replied, seemingly nonplussed by Pascal's hostility. "Come now, Pascal, I'm not stupid. I didn't drive here straight from the front, I flew in from Sesfontein. May I sit down?"

Pascal indicated to the empty chair opposite him, lighting a fresh cigarette. Brannigan sat down and opened his satchel, withdrew a manila folder and handed it over to Pascal. Pascal flipped it open and pulled out the contents: a set of aerial photos.

"Brannigan, these are just photos of the jungle. What am I missing?"

"There", said Brannigan, pointing to the mid-right of the top photograph. "It's a Ziggurat, one of the largest I've seen. One of our Kingfishers caught this upcountry, about 100 miles east of Kalima."

Pascal looked up. "Kalima. Mufasa territory".

"Indeed. These temples have traditionally been found in northwest Sandirius. The Praetonians found millions of dollars' worth of artifacts in them during the 1890's. All cleared out now, back in Haversham. But this is the first I've ever heard of located in the Motappan jungle. And it's enormous. The larger ones always have a higher value of loot. We are thinking of sending a small team to chart the Ziggurat and collect the artifacts. The spoils will be shared equa-"

Pascal held up his hand. "Do you know what the Mufasas do to intruders, Brannigan? They skin them and eat their flesh. They castrate them and wear their genitals as magic charms. Faces as war masks. They are all high on wild mushrooms. And now they have Sharfic guns. It would be a suicide mission to travel to this temple".

Brannigan smiled softly, having already anticipated the questioning. "It's no problem, Pascal. It's already in motion. We fly into Kalima disguised as aid workers to get past the Sharfic garrison there. I lead the mission and bring a squad of Mbengans for security. Your role, with your local knowledge, is to facilitate for us. Your mother was from upcountry, wasn't she?"

Pascal flushed and took another angry drag. "So I get you across the jungle - assuming you survive the long trek, the snakes, the parasites, the disease. The temple will no doubt be booby-trapped, or structurally unsafe. It's a waste of time to even try, Brannigan".

"Yes, we need one more person. An archaeologist - an expert in southwest Crataean history. I'm going to approach him tomorrow. Do we have a deal?"

"You are insane, Brannigan".

"I'll pay you one million Oryontic Dollars".

Pascal blinked, and pulled another ironic drag of his cigarette.

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Re: William Westland and the Unholy Ziggurat

Postby Srf » Wed May 16, 2018 8:18 pm

Jacksonville, North Point - May 6, 1964

A sharp tapping of wood on laminate jolted the rearmost inhabitants of the lecture hall back into life, scrambling for notes as their professor drew an imaginary circle around southern Crataea on an enormous world map with his pointer. to the right of the map a projector showed a much younger version of the same man, grinning widely in a pair of short shorts and pith hat, standing in front of a low-built mud structure in the desert.

"Now this Kyradenge burial chamber was found here" he began, indicating a vague triangular region of central Sandirius. "Why is this strange?"

A youthful hand shot up. "You mentioned last week that the Kyradenge are not native to those regions, and they are traditionally found further south".

The professor nodded. "True, but there's more to it than that. Anyone?"

Another hand popped up. "This is more a question. You assigned us a paper on Kyradenge architecture last week, and in Glorie's book on the Kyradenge he explicitly mentions they don't use burial chambers. I only remember the quote because Glorie said they were the only central Mbeyo-Denge tribe to not use them".

The professor clapped his hands together. "Fantastic work. And yet - here we are". He began clicking through the slides. "As you can see - the inside is full of Kyradenge masks, gourds, jewellery... It's undeniable that the tenant was a Kyradenge - the only one to ever be buried in a chamber. And just to confuse you a little more; this chamber is structurally different to the burial chambers used by the other Mbeyo-Denge tribes. A true anomaly".

The last photo clicked through the projector and the professor turned back to the students. "I think that's all for today. This is our last meeting for the semester, so enjoy the rest of your classes and I'll hopefully be seeing you next year".

With a murmured collective "thank you" the students began filing out of the class, revealing Mr. Brannigan, dressed in a neat white blazer. He raised his hand in an imitation of the students. "Excuse me, is that my dear old friend William Westland?"

Westland, who had started gathering his things, looked up. He grinned as recognition swept across his face. "Danny boy!"

Brannigan was already skipping down the steps toward Westland, and they met with a grasping bear hug and a lot of back slapping.

"So you did make it out of San Lorenzo then?" William asked, breaking the hug.

Brannigan grimaced. "Barely, but I did pay for it". He held up his left hand, which was missing the pinkie finger. "Bloody Veridians were pretty hacked off when they caught me. How did you get out?"

"On a North Point ship" Westland replied, turning around to stuff papers into his briefcase. "Not that I was saved for long. I was back shooting Veridians in the jungle within a year. Anyway, what brings you here?"

Brannigan paused. "I'd like to offer you a job, actually. How would you feel about joining me in Motappaland?"

"Interesting..." Westland turned back to face Brannigan. "The thing is, Brannigan, I assume you're talking about that Mbenga business. Not really something I'm interested in, selling my service to a man like Coleman..."

"Ah, no no no no" Brannigan interrupted, waving his hand dismissively. "It's good, old fashioned archaeological work, William. Just like the old days, what you were doing before you got chained behind a University desk. There's been a Ziggurat found up north. Untouched. Filled with who knows what... Treasures. Jewels. Cultural marvels."

"Up north in Simba territory?"

"We will have security. It's simple enough, we go in, collect the treasure and split the difference. Everything bound by contract".

"Danny boy, I can't say I'm not interested" Westland replied. "But as I said, I don't much care for all this Mbenga business and I know there's a link. I think I shall have to respectfully decline. But I have some fantastic doctorate students who would jump at the opportunity to -"

"No, William" Brannigan said, as two burly men strolled into the room from the back of the hall. "It simply must be you. You are the best, and for this mission the best is all that will do. I'm sorry it couldn't be more amicable."

The men approached William, who immediately assumed a defensive stance. There was a brief moment of quiet before the first threw out his fist toward William's face. He nimbly dodged the blow, retaliating with a swift uppercut into the man's jaw, and was rewarded with a satisfying crack. Before he could celebrate the second man had grabbed him from behind and pressed a chemical-soaked rag against his mouth. Within seconds the fight drained from William's body and he fell limply into a deep sleep.

Brannigan took a second to look at the professor. "Get him into the car".

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Re: William Westland and the Unholy Ziggurat

Postby North Point » Mon Jun 17, 2019 9:29 pm

Interview with Lt. George Blair, NPSC (ret), January 17th, 2001 - Northreach, North Point
Interviewed by Outside magazine reporter Frank Peterson

PETERSON: Thank you for taking the time today, sir. Can you describe your job in the navy, during the 1950s?

BLAIR: Of course. I was torpedo officer aboard the submarine Volador. We were submarine number 58, "SS-58" in the navy records. I was responsible for setting up and directing torpedo attacks on enemy ships. I was onboard Volador from 1954 until 1957.

PETERSON: Were you in Veridis?

BLAIR: I graduated from the academy too late for that which was probably a good thing. When I reported to Volador at Makapu'u Bay, the ceasefire was already in effect. Our first "patrol" was off the north coast of Valimero, but it was uneventful.

PETERSON: Where else did you go aboard the submarine?

BLAIR: We spent most of 1954 off Valimero, putting into Sao Luis or returning to Jax to refuel and reprovision. Even though we now think the war in Veridis ended in 1954, it definitely did not feel that way... aboard the sub we all thought we were just taking a break before the "Sunday punch" that would finish the Zavalans once and for all. Obviously that never happened. By January '55 we had been taken off the Veridis patrol and returned to Jax for a few months. After that, we made calls at different ports around the Commonwealth. That included a few rotations at the Crataean Bases in Questers, and a month in Douneray. We all preferred Questers.

PETERSON: What about Motappaland?

BLAIR: Ha. I'm not sure I'm supposed to talk about that.

PETERSON: The Company released the file three months ago.

BLAIR: So they did...

PETERSON: We know the full extent of Operation Automatic. What can you tell us about it? What did you see, anything you can remember?

BLAIR: Alright. In late 1956 -- I can't remember exactly when -- we received orders to high tail it to coordinates near Tchaba, in Motappaland. None of us had ever heard of the place before. We had to buy commercial charts for the waters around Tchaba. By this point, I had become the navigator aboard Volador, so it was my job to get us there.

PETERSON: But you got there.

BLAIR: We did. We reached the point near Tchaba on December 12th, 1956. I remember because it was my wife's birthday. We were about two miles off the coast, offshore of a bunch of coconut and banana plantations. The orders we got from Fleet specified the location, and told us to await contact on the TBS radio from a "friendly agent". We spent the 13th submerged at periscope depth, surfacing only at night to run the diesels and recharge the batteries. On the night of the 13th, we got a call from "Robinson" over the talk-between-ships.

PETERSON: Robinson was a Company man?

BLAIR: Well, he was not from North Point. Only the captain met him. The rest of us were kept in the dark, until the captain had talked to him. He came aboard that night and we had to clear out the wardroom so they could talk. I'm not sure where that guy was from, or who he represented, but after he left the CO briefed us. He had a funny look on his face. We were told we were taking the submarine up the Tchaba River and the orders for this operation had come from the highest levels at the Company. The enlisted men were not going to be told what was going on. We were all sworn to secrecy. Apparently the man who came aboard with the instructions had hinted that we would be made outlaws if news of this got out. It was called "Operation Automatic".

PETERSON: Your orders were to sail a submarine up a river?

BLAIR: It sounds crazy, right? Well, to us in North Point, rivers are pretty small... but you don't understand the true scale of the Tchaba river. It's over three miles wide in some places, and it gets as deep as 850 feet at the mouth of the river, but the average depth is around 150 feet. Keep in mind our submarines were penetrating Lago Imperial in Veridis, which is only 60 feet deep in a lot of places. We were good at that kind of stuff. Volador had the "sugar king charlie" SKC sonar fitted, which could accurately detect mines at different depths. We were actually very well equipped to navigate up and down that river. Later in the 60s, the Mbenga guys operated an old submarine on the same river for commando raids.

PETERSON: What was upriver?

BLAIR: Here's where it gets interesting. The orders Robinson had brought aboard included the entire operational plan. Basically, we were to proceed upriver 111 miles to an archaeological site that had been discovered by an agricultural company in the area. They were called "OGC" -- which stood for Occidental Grower's Corporation. I'm fairly certain they were a Company subscriber. Anyway, we were told the OGC guys had discovered something important in the jungle at this site, and needed us to get in and get it out. It sounded fishy to all of us.

PETERSON: Did you know it was treasure then?

BLAIR: We had a standing bet in the wardroom about what it was. I put $50 on it being a new form of energy. Howe bet all of us $100 that it was gold or silver bullion (we all had to pay up afterward). Jimmy and Vargas thought it was a collection of archaeological artifacts proving that Prekovars were actually descended from space aliens. Frankly, none of us had any idea...

PETERSON: That last one may not make it into Outside magazine. But please go on...

BLAIR: Ha. It's the truth though. Anyway, at that point in time Motappaland was controlled off and on by the Fantasians and the Saratovs. And also the Embreans and Quiberonnais, somewhat... I can never keep track of who was actually in charge in those days. Either way, our operational plan made it very clear that what we were doing was being done without the knowledge of any of these guys. That's why they sent a submarine. We started upriver on the 17th, running submerged at three knots. About ten miles upriver there was a station post manned by the Saratov army, which we passed with no incident. We navigated using the SQA sonar to take soundings and look out for obstructions ahead, but it was surprisingly easy running. After we passed the Saratov post, we put the periscope up for a look. There was nothing for miles. Our RCM antenna picked up nothing but aircraft band radios high overhead. We saw a few natives in canoes but nothing beyond that. We snorkeled that night to run the diesels and recharge batteries, but didn't surface until the night of the 19th.

PETERSON: Was OGC involved in any of this, or were you effectively by yourselves?

BLAIR: We were alone until the evening of the 21st. The Tchaba splits at Nkora, and OGC had a small office there. We picked up a navigator there - a guy named Mueller - who had a Fantasian accent. He was kind of an asshole. We actually docked at the pier at Nkora and took on some supplies -- fresh fruit and the like -- and Mueller brought aboard a case of Dumani submachine guns. We learned at Nkora that OGC would be sending a small helicopter along with us to reconnoiter the route ahead. We were able to run on the surface from then on. A few barrels of aviation gas were trundled aboard and secured aft, and one of the OGC guys spray painted a rough "H" on the stern of the boat so we could hot refuel the chopper. It was one of the smaller Varnian types with two rotors overhead, with a garish OGC paint job. Mueller told us the natives and colonials were really used to OGC helicopters flying overhead so it wouldn't arouse any suspicion. We cast off from the pier on the 22nd, completing the rest of the trip with no incident. We got to the archaeological site on the 26th.

PETERSON: The official report mentions you were the leader of the shore party. What can you tell us about that?

BLAIR: We drew straws to see which officer would lead the shore party. None of us were really interested in going. You could see the temple complex from the river, but it was pretty far inland -- about 750 yards or so, up a gently sloping hill with some foliage covering the crest of the hill. An abandoned OGC truck sat nearby which we thought was strange. I drew the short straw so it was up to me.

PETERSON: Were you trained in leading a shore party?

BLAIR: I was a naval officer and specialized in torpedo attacks and later navigation, so not really. None of us were. I picked a crew of six enlisted men, including the master at arms. Mueller came along too since he had been to the site. We distributed carbines and Thompson guns to the crew, inflated the boat's small raft, and paddled ashore. The captain stood on the sail with binoculars. One of the enlisted men had a walkie talkie handheld radio, so we were in constant contact with the boat. The captain had called "man battle-stations, surface" before we set off, so both 5" guns were manned and ready, and the anti-aircraft guns on the bridge were too.

PETERSON: What were you expecting?

BLAIR: Mueller spilled the beans while we paddled to shore. Gold, he said, more gold than a white man had ever seen. Certainly too much gold for a black man...

PETERSON: I'll have to censor that one too, but please go on...

BLAIR: Touchy readers these days, huh? Anyway, the enlisted guys looked wide eyed but I just cringed at the fact I'd have to pay Howe his $100 since he was right. We kept paddling and got to shore. Mueller led the way. I had a funny feeling about him. We kept working our way up the hill, pausing occasionally to radio check with the boat and look around. The lookouts on the boat were also watching but didn't see anything suspicious. We eventually made it to the base of the temple ruins. I was really creeped out by this point. There were carved lizard people, and giant statues of pyramidal-headed gods and whatnot, all overgrown with vegetation and crumbling from thousands of years of disrepair. Bats flew out of crevices and we saw a few snakes, which one of the sailors killed with a machete. Mueller led us through the ruins, eventually entering a large antechamber inside. A giant disk-shaped object was perched atop five pedestals. Each was inlaid with what we thought was quartzite. Mueller led us past it to another chamber, where we saw it -- a pile of many hundreds of gold ingots. Each weighed thirty pounds or more. I sent the leading radioman, S1c Fernandes, outside to radio our report into the captain.

PETERSON: How did you move that much gold?

BLAIR: We used the abandoned OGC truck that had been left near the ruins. Turns out Mueller had driven it there many weeks prior and left it. We had equipment aboard the submarine for strike down of torpedo reloads, so we used that to load everything. The quartermaster kept a count of each ingot loaded.

PETERSON: How much was there?

BLAIR: You know the report didn't disclose that.

PETERSON: Sorry. I guess that's right. What's your estimate?

BLAIR: Buddy, I'm no expert, but it was a lot. I can't say how much.

PETERSON: So you loaded up with no incident?

BLAIR: You could say that. Our operational plan included one final step. We had to destroy the temple, to the best of our ability.

PETERSON: You destroyed an archaeological site?

BLAIR: We followed our orders. Besides, it wasn't a good place. We parked the OGC truck as close as we could, and the guys on the main deck of the sub just started lobbing 5" shells into it. We expended about 150 rounds of 5" before the captain called to cease fire. This was alright, since with this much gold onboard we were overloaded anyway. The OGC chopper flew over the temple and radioed back that damage looked sufficient. We had started a few fires that burned throughout the night.

PETERSON: I may have to leave that part out, OK? Readers won't like hearing about our boys destroying an ancient ruin...

BLAIR: You do whatever you want. I'm just telling you what happened.

PETERSON: So there were no issues getting home?

BLAIR: Not really. We dropped Mueller off at Nkora. One of the sailors caught him trying to put some of the ingots in his briefcase, and the captain had some stern words for him. I was glad to see him go. We unloaded his crate of Dumani submachine guns, which we hadn't even opened, and dumped the empty fuel drums over the side into the river. A working party set about scraping the yellow paint off the stern. We waved goodbye to Nkora and set off downriver.

PETERSON: And that was that?

BLAIR: That was that. One month back to North Point, refueling at Fort Cromwell, and we were home. We put into Espiritu Santo under cover of night, and a yard crew of men we had never seen before unloaded the boat. That next month I was surprised to find a $1,000 bonus paid to my name, deposited into my Oryontic Bank account. I think everyone on the boat got a small stipend.

PETERSON: What happened afterwards?

BLAIR: That night, while the yard crew unloaded the boat, the entire crew was whisked away on buses to a Company facility on the outskirts of Espiritu Santo. We were jammed into a small building and given a stern lecture by a navy commander and two civilian Company men on the importance of secrecy of the operation. Naturally no one talked.

PETERSON: There's a lot of misinformation floating around about this event. What do you have to say about the foreign press accusing the Company of stealing what wasn't theirs to take?

BLAIR: Ha. That's interesting. I'm not sure what they're talking about, though. I have no recollection of something called "Operation Automatic".

Blair smiles, before lighting a cigarette.

PETERSON: Lieutenant Blair, thank you for your time.

Recording ends.

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