Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dr. Gotham Steps Out - Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Barbara Gordon had set down her notes and small spiral notebook on the large walnut table and flipped over to the notes that referenced Chester Rhinold's diary after she was comfortably seated in one of the high backed chairs. She was re-reading those when Lisa came back with Volume 3 that would cover his time in western China in 1892. Lisa also set her materials down to her right so that Barbara could look at the volume from the left. Barbara watched as Lisa put her jacket on the back of the chair, and then opened her notes to a page of neatly done references for her to look for and then seated herself. Barbara's notes weren't that exacting as they tended to center around a short two periods of the diary, both of which would take a bit of searching to pin down as there was no index to it. Lisa put a pen on the notebook and a short pencil next to it and then looked at Barbara.

"I have material to look up during Mr. Rhinold's passage, perhaps before going through the Khunjerab Pass, and then after with his meetings with locals of the Yuehzi or lesser Yuehzi peoples."

Checking her notes Barbara nodded.

"That is just about where I'm looking for information, too. Perhaps that other researcher here before us was also looking for that information," Barbara said looking at the bookmarks, one larger and more prominent the other much smaller, further on in the text.

"I... yes, I am beginning to see that he had much the same interest," Lisa said as she carefully opened the cover of the old diary and then slid the bookmark forward so she could open the book. While not on the best of paper, it had not become fragile over time and the only yellowing was along the very most outer edge of it. Inside was the neat pen and ink handwriting of Chester Rhinold and the page with the first entry dated May 7th 1892.

May 7th 1892

Today the trail led us out of the highlands above Kashi coming from the Gez valley. This was an important day of making contact with the local mayor and then establishing camp just to the east and a bit south of the city. As I had asked about the city of Subashi, the mayor suggested that an encampment of Yuezhi at the Li Jien site may know more. They are there to send supplies into the Pamir uplands to those tending the yak and local sheep. It is described as a three day journey and the actual encampment is hard to find and will require a local guide. From there we saw the slowly evaporating lake filled with the spring run-off from the Pamir and Kun Lun ranges, and the agricultural use that allowed this part of western China to thrive. We could not avoid the bustle of the trade areas as we had to replenish our supplies. It was at this point that my exploration group broke off from the main trade caravan we had been with since Peshawar, and without the knowledge of my own guides led by Sabir and the skills of Wahid who led the caravan, we would have been hard pressed to journey on our own with such a small group. I hope that we can meet up with the caravan again after they have gone much further east and exchanged their goods for valuable items from the heart of China, itself. As we set up camp Sabir sent one of his men to inquire about a guide to Le Jien and an interpreter for the Yuezhi who, I take it, are not related to the Khirgiz.

Barbara saw Lisa lean back and nod as she checked her notes, flipping through a few pages and then writing next to a section.

"They aren't related, are they?" Barbara asked.

Lisa shook her head as she wrote down information.

"They aren't. The Yuezhi or Lesser Yuezhi which is the population that remained in China after their defeat by the Han Emperor, are a much older people dating back before written records in China.

"That is pretty old... do you know how far back they go?"

Lisa looked at Barbara and thought for a moment before going to her notes, flipping back a few pages.

"They appear to be the oldest people in Central Asia, coming from the Pamir Mountain region. Their trade with ethnic Chinese was already well established when the first records were written."

Barbara looked down at the diary and then at the table, her gaze unfocused.

"That...." she started and hesitated, "...if they were there that long ago..."

Struck by a thought Barbara picked up her notes and looked through them, then read a piece from it.

"The people of Hyperborea who we call the Dacians, recount when the ocean lapped up to their shores by the mountains and the arctic plains which came from their descent from the warm valley above that had resisted all ice and snow."

"It's a part describing how the creatures known as 'Shuggoths' were made known to man and is a translated oral history from the bards of the Kushans."

Lisa nodded.

"All the same people, just different names for them. Dacia or Daxia, Bactria, Kushan, Yuezhi..."

"What happened to them?" Barbara asked.

"Many migrated outside of China, to the south, west and north. At least that is what the claim is now from archaeologists. Inside China... I don't know... save that the elder I spoke with indicated that many or most may not have survived Mao."

"Or gone underground," Barbara said in a whisper.

"Yes. Shall I read on?"

Barbara nodded, flipping to a new page to record the names of the people over time.

"Please do! I'm listening even as I'm writing."

Lisa continued to the next entry.

May 10th 1892

Broke camp at Kashi and have a older local by the name of Loo Sang to lead us to Li Jien and act as interpreter. His family is, apparently, related to the Yuehzi as cousins. Loo is an older man of local Chinese extraction and quite happy for the work and some of our trade goods. Apparently a bottle of Tennessee whiskey is an exotic delicacy, and the two bottles to the mayor and one bottle for Loo Sang have gotten us much cooperation. A British trader by the name of Richard Portnoy was able to supply me with some boxes of .44-40 rounds for my Winchester and Colt, although at the cost of my spare riding hat and two of the Martini-Henry rifles that we were able to capture from raiders two days out from the Khunjerab Pass. The rate of fire from my Winchester and that of Sabir's MLE proved to be unexpected by the Khirgiz raiders, although Sabir called them Uzbeks it is unlikely as they live far on the other side of the Khyber. With all supplies restocked and two guards sent with us by the mayor, we are off to follow one of the less used trade routes skirting the Tak-la-makan desert, the desert of 'witchcraft' or death by local telling. The number of pack and herd animal remains we have seen indicate the latter.

May 12th 1892

I have talked with Loo Sang as we travel first south and then east along an old trail which he said was the main trading route over 1,000 years ago. I asked him about the Yuezhi and I gather from what he said that they are followers of an older cult or religion called Mo Long or Moh Loang. Between him and his two guards I couldn't really piece together what the cult was about or what it believed in and even Sabir could only say that it was about a dragon or emperor of some sort. Apparently the Yuezhi talk very little with those outside even their immediate relatives who have intermarried with others in the area, and that they travel from high in the Pamir Mountains to south of the Kun Lun Mountains into Tibet. They were once the masters of trade in this region and the trail we are on is the remains of one of their old roads. When visible and not just in outline, the road is very straight and is of a hard packed sand with some dry white substance holding it together. It is chipped with difficulty with a hammer and I have put specimens in bottles for chemical assay either in Karachi or in New York. There is no game to hunt in the area and what appear to have been old natural springs with some attempts to make flagstone pools are all dry. The desert sands have shifted over much of this road as we progress and the desert itself is a black stillness at night.

"A dragon or emperor? That isn't really very clear, is it?"

"I think it is about a spirit dragon or demon dragon," Lisa said checking her notes, "translation and transliteration is very hard when a simple change of intonation can change the entire meaning of a word. But this isn't how anyone refers to the Emperor Dragon, this is something different."

Barbara shook her head and flipped to a new page.

"This is getting complicated..."

Lisa was also writing information down.

"It is, yes."

May 13th 1892

Arrived outside the ruins of Le Jien today. It has the remains of some earthen works around it where the sand has not covered it. The light was nearly gone when we arrived and Sabir went with Loo Sang and his guards to ask the men guarding the few tents pitched amongst the broken walls if those in the encampment would talk with us. That discussion lasted a half hour and the four returned to tell us that they cannot entertain us tonight. Everyone took part in unloading the camels and two horses, while one of Sabir's men gathered enough dung for a fire to cook with. As full dark came on we could hear the low chanting of people within Le Jien and the winds would shift to carry the smell of burning incense drifting from that direction. I went over a slight rise to get out of the fire light and could start to see that the smoke from Le Jien was skirting out and over the dunes of the Tak-la-makan. I had to turn in after hours of that chanting carried by the wind and only awoke with the sound of a drum that was heard echoing to the east, not exactly from Le Jien. As the beat continued the booming of the drum could be heard echoing from the dunes and yet I was the only one awakened by it. After some minutes of this it sounded as if the entire desert was now reverberating with each beat, and even our cook pot was swaying over the dim embers of the fire in time with the beat. Then the beating stopped with a great hissing sound and muffled roar heard from the south and east with a great shuffling sound as if great quantities of sand where being uplifted and dropped. The stillness after that was that of the normal Tak-la-makan, dark, cold and deep. Sleep was hard to find in such a place at such a time.

Lisa flipped the page and wrote some notes down in her notebook, as did Barbara.

"That is a strange story," Lisa said.

"No stranger than Ghost Trains, although Mr. Rhinold has a better account of this incident than I have ever heard about the Trains."

Lisa smiled as she wrote and then went to the new page.

May 14th 1892

Today was a meeting with the three elders that are at Li Jien and I write this down at length with the sun setting over the Tak-la-makan as it moves behind the Kun Luns.

They agreed to meet with me after having some scant description of who I was and where I came from given to them by Loo Sang. I must note the startling differences in appearance between the Yuezhi and the native Chinese or even someone of upper Hindi extraction like Sabir. Unlike these men the Yuezhi had pale skin with a number of them having blue eyes and blond or even red hair. Their countenance is not unlike that I have encountered amongst many Europeans from Germany, Scandinavia or even parts of Greece. With much squarer jaws and thicker hair none of these people would be noticed in a city like London, Paris, Rome or New York, save the need for a shave and something to mask the earthy odor that clung to them. With Loo Sang, Sabir and one of Sang's guards, I was ushered into a large tent that had three older men with hair going slowly to white, seated cross-legged style in front of a mat of small containers of dried fruit, what would turn out to be dried yak and roasted sheep, with some small piles of sauces and dried herb salts on a common plate. Small bread and cracker rounds were piled in the center of the plate.

Two of the Yuezhi guards who looked to be young men stood at the sides of the tent wearing a traditional short bladed sword and having a Martini-Henry with carrying strap strung across their backs. The older men wore tanned hide leggings and vests with rough cloth shirts under the vests. The youngest was named Pei-than and was of dark blond hair with close cropped beard. After him was a dark haired older man stoutly built with similar leggings with fur trim and a similar shirt who was named Osthara. Finally the oldest man, though still quite strapping and, like the others, carried himself like a skilled horseman, was of long hair going to black and white, and he had on a thicker set of fabric trousers with leggings, a silk shirt and apparently modern vest from the Indian trade. He was called Alachendri. Each of the men had on relatively low cut boots, and while the two younger men, although Osthara must be in his late 50s, had on ceremonial short swords, Alachendri also carried a modern revolver by his side looking like one of the Webley's used in the last decade by the British.

I was introduced by Loo Sang to them along with Sabir to the three older men, and then they were introduced to me. We were invited to their hospitality and I motioned to Sabir to bring in gifts for them, which consisted of 5 of the Martini-Henry rifles we had captured, 12 Khirgiz sabers, a bottle of my whiskey and small trade containers of aspirin and codeine I had picked up along my travels. The three were greatly pleased by the gifts and after showing them how to open the bottles they marveled at the strength of it and sent one of their guards to get some fruit bread to go with it. Their meal and hospitality was thereby added to with their local mead and cheeses, along with some second rate trade brandy that I gather was sold by Portnoy. Invited to sit I did so and we started to eat the early mid-day meal as we talked. I had been asked for what I was doing in the area, and I said I was chasing down the story of a Queen from ancient days who had traveled from her lands of Axum in Africa and Arabia following her new religion to its source.

Truly did I miss Lawrence as he was the true expert in this story and I had only studied as long as I could in my travels with him to arrive at Karachi with him having fallen sick during our voyage. He had traveled through the lands of the Pashtun and even north beyond Kabul and only had to return home 3 years ago due to snows in the Khyber Pass. His trusted friend Sabir knew that area well and had traveled with caravans to Kashi and even once to Peking, so he knew the locale but not the stories. I communicated to the three that I was here for an older historian who desperately wanted to be here but had fallen ill and they shook their head in understanding.

They related that the Spirit Mother of the West had indeed been through here twice once heading east where she was feted at the Emperor's Court and she stayed for some years at the old Yellow Emperor's compound as a most honored guest. In her later years she came back to see the area under Yuezhi, and here I caught their names for themselves which is Ahknie or Akahnay, and they showed her the valley that the Yellow Emperor had used as a model for his compound. From there she traveled south of Goddess Mountain in the Kun Lun range to stay at a small village both to study and to impart knowledge of her travels. I had asked if Subashi was that place and they said that it wasn't although she had been through there many times. It was now buried in the Tak-la-makan and Pei-than said that this had happened on the day of the Queen's transfiguration and that had been the end of Subashi, the small town of Lanxi to the south and had destroyed much of the valley to the north.

When the guard returned with warm milk, more mead and even some of their western tea made of local dried herbs, it was a welcome break and I was asked to tell of where I came from. Describing Gotham the best I could, to impart that it was a large city but not so big as Peking, Calcutta or Karachi, the three nodded and asked about our trade there. When I said the two islands of Gotham both had commercial ports they seemed confused as they had not heard of such a thing before. The environs of Gotham City are unique in many ways and they whispered amongst themselves as I described how the Gotham river flowed not directly into Long Island Sound but was diverted around the northern part of the islands to then flow out not only east and west but through a channel down the middle of the two islands. At the last I had to resort to drawing with a stick in the dusty ground inside the tent so that they could understand it and then they nodded slowly.

After they talked quietly Osthara asked if I would like to visit the southern areas where Xi Wangmu had been late in her life as they would be easier now after the run-off and that the northern site should be visited only in late summer at the earliest as that would allow their cattle to have their fill and show the land off the best. To this I assented, eagerly, and talks for preparation with Sabir and Loo Sang went apace for the rest of meal to the point I had not noticed the setting sun. With the return of the rest of the Yuezhi I was ushered out for a brief meeting with the younger boys, girls and women who had been off tending their lesser cattle and trading in Kashi. That lasted for an hour until the sun was just above the peaks to the south and west, and then I excused my group from the chatting and even some music played on flutes and drums to record my memories for the day.

The only other thing of note is that while traveling around the ruins I was struck on how similar the architecture was to that of some of the Roman sites I had seen in Britain, France and Egypt, even down to the original earthworks with what might still be an ancient pike or two now being slowly drifted over by the Tak-la-makan.

Barbara was quickly compiling notes and held up a hand as she did so.

"Ah, Lisa? Do you know what they are talking about here?"

Lisa watched as Barbara was writing.

"I do, or at least I think I do. They are talking about the travels of the Queen of Sheba. She had come through this area searching for something after her she made sure that her son was secure on the throne of Axum."

"The Queen of... like in the Bible? That Queen of Sheba?"

Nodding Lisa picked up her notes.

"At least one or two books have attempted to go over her trail after she left the eastern part of Sheba or Axum trading territory. She went across modern Iraq and Iran then north into what was the the land of the Daxia or Yuezhi peoples. After that records are scarce until her arrival in the eastern part of China where she took up studies and was known as the Queen Mother of the West or Spirit Mother of the West who would later spend her life at Mount Kunlun before becoming the Goddess Xiwangmu."

Barbara flipped back a page in her notes and asked, "Anything like Mo Long, the Spirit Dragon?" She looked at Lisa who was nodding no.

"No, I had never heard of that reference until now."

"This is a strange story, but not getting either of us closer to what we are looking for."

Lisa smiled.

"If you don't mind I will skim read and tell what you are missing and stop for anything that catches my attention. After a couple of pages you can look and perhaps catch something that I missed."

Smiling Barbara said, "That sounds good. I can take notes faster this way but don't mind spelling you off. Besides it looks to be about 10 pages to the next bookmark."

Lisa raised an eyebrow then nodded.

"OK. I will skim now, stop me if you think something sounds important."

Barbara nodded and wrote a bit more in her notes.

Lisa's eyes darted over the old hand written diary.

"He is describing preparing for the journey following the Hotan River... Osthara joining them with five of his own men or young boys, I guess... very dry in the desert... cold at night... loss of two camels in uneven footing... more sketches recorded elsewhere... arrival at Hotan and then south towards Goddess Mountain... some snow at the pass they use... the desolate valley beyond that has a large lake... that is where the Goddess had lived in a small community or retreat, now lost... journey up the valley to a peak close to Goddess Mountain... then... ahhh... let me read this..."

June 6th 1892

Leading our animals up the trail of this peak it is evident that it is not a normal mountain but one of volcanic origin. There is a light smell of sulfur in the air and we had passed at least two sets of hotsprings one at the foot of the mountain and one another 300 feet higher. We camped at a flat spot that Osthara had told us about as being the last remaining place that Xi Wangmu had been before her transfiguration. There is enough room for tents and we pitched them to help protect from the wind that comes up this part of the mountain.

Tonight he talked more about his people, the Yuezhi and the religion he was a part of. Loo Sang relates that it is not a religion but more a society or brotherhood to protect some sites and artifacts. When I asked him if this related to Mo Long, Loo Sang's eyes darted nervously between myself and Osthara. For his part Osthara smiled and said yes, that was the case and that his group was more properly associated with the Great Bloody Agate Hand Holding Asia.

Lisa cut off reading and re-read that just under her breath.

Barbara heard this and looked at her, seeing her go pale with her right hand quivering as it went over the text in the diary.

"Is there something wrong, Lisa?"

" for them... their group... it is what my elder related to me, the Brotherhood of the Agate Hand. But this is... I... its hard to explain..."

"How is it confusing? It is what you are looking for, isn't it?"

Lisa slowly nodded yes.

"But its more... I... perhaps its been translated twice before Mr. Rhinold recorded it. This doesn't sound... its not exactly..." Lisa shook her head closing her eyes.

Barbara leaned forward and placed her right hand on Lisa's left.

"It's OK, Lisa. Don't force it. A deep breath will help."

Lisa nodded as Barbara withdrew her hand, and then looked at her.

"Thank you. There are so many problems with this. I think someone is trying to hide a name, but is also making sure that the way the name is described contains the meaning of the name. I had traced out the deposits of agate and water agate, especially, from known old sites in and around China."

Barbara blinked.

"Traced? In your notebook?"

Lisa smiled and reached over for her notebook and took out a copy of the map of China she had made and put sheets over it.

"I had to darken the original copy I made to see it. The first map is just Eastern and Central Asia. The next," she leafed into her notebook and slid the map under a sheet, "are the mountains. Then after that," she flipped the next sheet onto the two previous ones, "are the ancient mines and trade routes."

Looking puzzled Barbara looked at the map overlays.

"May I see them?"

"Of course," Lisa handed her the notebook and then she held it up to the overhead lights and shifted the map to fit the overlays.

"OK. And...?"

"Now place your left hand next to the map, put your fingers together, your thumb pushed down a bit and look."

Barbara did that and dropped the notebook her hands shivering uncontrollably.

"Oh my God," she whispered, "how the hell...?"

"Yes, you see?"

She inhaled and re-assembled the map to look again.

"It's not exact but... and the desert... the pass... there might be a finger missing or shifted, maybe... and the Taklamakan right there next to the thumb, the trade route coming down the back of the thumb then the northern one at the first crease of index finger..."

This was a feeling unlike any other Barbara had felt. There was a message here, and an important one, but she just couldn't figure out what it was or who was sending it or if it was sent at all. This wasn't something written by man but by geography and topography and no man could redefine that or change it much even in the modern era.

"Now think of a reptile's hand with four toes."

Putting the notebook down Barbara looked at Lisa who was nodding.

"Now you see. When I read the passage... I... there is something..."

Barbara pressed her lips together trying to make sure she did not look as frightened as she felt.

"Perhaps the rest of it will help?"

Nodding Lisa turned back to the diary.

I asked Osthara if this was related to the White Lotus uprising in the east. He spat into the fire and said that his people had been there before the Mongols ever pitched their first yurt, and that they had to be taught how to do that. His people had been in the land far back into history when only a few valleys of the upland Pamirs were clear of ice. It was then they discovered the last remains of Mo Long and members of the three races of Shiyoauwudìngxíng that lived at the base of Mo Long's heaven separating spire. This was something I had not heard of before and sounded very strange. I asked if he could describe these creatures as their name wasn't associated with any animal I had ever heard about.

Osthara sat back and looked at Loo Sang who was petrified in fear. Sabir looked on with the glow of the firelight reflecting from his face, not really knowing what to make of this story. In the silence broken by the hiss of the flames, Osthara said that these beings were the amorphous ones, the Shuggoth, Shaggoth and Ngluioth that were some of the first monsters or demons spawned by Mo Long and that which is called Xinga. They were of the dark, dreams and threshold of colors black, brown and green. They had stayed with the final remains of their mother until the day that Xi Wangmu was transfigured out of this realm. His people had only rarely seen the Shuggoth since and continued to safeguard some few artifacts that were from Mo Long.

It was apparent that Osthara was tiring and he then settled himself into his meager bedroll to fall fast asleep. I looked at Loo Sang who was still shaking with fear and he would not answer any questions and went to the part of our shelter to bed down. I agreed to take first night guard watch to spell one of Sabir's men as I had much to think about here under the night sky in the land south of the Tak-la-makan on the south face of the Kun Luns.

Looking at her notes Barbara started to shake her head.

"These people these... Akhnie... Yuezhi... if what this man Osthara says is true... they may have had some of the earliest encounters with these creatures... Shuggoth, I guess but also Shaggoth and Ngluioth. Those aren't Chinese names, are they?"

Lisa pressed her lips together and shook her head negatively as she shivered.

"They aren't... no, not Chinese or any of the Asian languages, I think. If that suffix of -oth means race or people then the first part is where they come from and they seem to be generic places, not like a Nation or Country but a place or space. The descriptive word of them, Shiyoauwudìngxíng does break down into amorphous beings which has more traditional parts to it and says that it is simply amorphous, without set form."

Nodding Barbara noted that, and then looked at Lisa again.

"This seems to be hitting you pretty hard. Is it more than you wanted to know?"

Turning to look at Barbara, Lisa's face showed concern, worry and she blinked quickly to wipe a tear away.

"No, it is something I do have to know. It is unexpected, yes, but reading this... hearing it... that helps me to understand it. Thank you, Barbara."

"If you want I can pick up reading aloud for us from here? If you want to know more, that is."

Lisa shivered again and sighed.

"Yes, please do. I can go on, really, to get to know this man's story of these people and what they know."

Barbara re-arranged her notebook and slid the diary over, even as Lisa took a kleenex from her coat pocket to dab at the corner of her right eye. After that she moved her materials in front of her and kept pieces of paper at the composed map sheets so she could get to them quickly.

"Now let me see... after that breaking camp and going up to what is a volcano that is somewhat active... description from Osthara of Xiwangmu's transfiguration during an eruption that only lasted a few days with steam but little ash... You know, the 'transfiguration' may have just been her dying in a pyroclastic flow," Barbara interjected, "A wave of super-hot steam and ash cloud. It would cause landslides as the ice and snow melted under it and in a confined valley it would bury a small town completely."

"Just like Osthara said had happened to Lanxi," Lisa said writing slowly,"gone in one day."

"Yeah! Just like that. And a decent earthquake might shift the desert sands, cause upwellings..."

Lisa glanced at Barbara who was also writing notes.

"Subashi on the same day or very close to it. The great hand flexing just a tiny amount to bring much bloodshed and death."

Barbara stopped writing and looked at Lisa.

"Totally natural causes."

Lisa nodded.

"The map speaks well over millenia."

"But it is due to natural causes. The great plates under the continents moving...."

"A great hand slowly closing to a fist."

Barbara remembered a science program she had seen a few years ago, showing how the Indian and Asian plates were pushing together, slowly, inexorably. What would become of this part of Asia? Would it be any different, really, than a great hand clenching, even just reflexively. And the other plates...

"Now you are scaring me, Lisa. I don't like the imagery that brings up... even with what we know it... the heart of the Earth moving the plates... just through heat from radioactivity, a normal process... but here... what is going on?"

"Perhaps Mr. Rhinold found out?"

Barbara inhaled and steadied herself, mentally. She had half-remembered some stories about the area around this part of New England and something was beginning to try and worm its way out. But she couldn't place it and shook her head to clear it.

"Yes, let me go further."

Looking down she did her best to convince herself that the text itself wasn't moving, but only that a slight tear was distorting it. She blinked and inhaled through her nose and the text stopped moving.

"After that over the top of volcano, nothing much to see inside just rocks and steam... down... traveling along the western edge of the desert... resupplying at Kashi... argument with Loo Sang who wanted to leave the expedition... hmmm... a few bribes... he stays on, replaces men... then north out of Kashi into the valley between the Pamir and Kunluns... then into a twisting valley... Rhinold thinks that it might be between the Tien Shan range and Pamir range, but isn't sure... over a set of bridges crossing ravines... then up... temperature rising as they go up next to a waterfall coming from the precipice above... and then into the valley... the valley of the Red Lotus Tree... let me read this."

July 9th 1892

Today we ascended over the top of the precipice onto the valley proper. The long and winding path from the lower valley to the upper had been well traveled by man and beast that had to be checked and cleared every year after the melt-off from surrounding mountains. We are above the treeline here, and yet the vegetation is lush in the form of grasses and neatly tended areas of bramble used to close off large sections of the valley so that animals could be safely moved. The small river went clearly around a semi-circle in the valley floor which was visible only as a slight mound. In the distance the herds of animals could be seen and the simple yurts that the Yuezhi used were in an adjacent area.

Osthara told me that they had hunted out the wolves long, long ago and there were no worries of them here, save for a lone straggler now and again. The simple stone barricade at the top of the precipice was enough to tell me that this entire valley could well nigh be sealed off with just a few scouts in the surrounding mountains who would be able to spot any intruders miles before they were a threat. Here a mere handful of men could hold off an army as any army would be forced into tiny bands of men that had to dare the ravines, bridges, waterfalls and sheer mountainsides to gain any access to this place. We were met at the plateau by Alachendri and one of his sons who were there to greet us and get us situated in the camp which more centrally located in the valley. As we traveled I could see that the sides of the valley had a look of being hewn smooth save for some paths that went up the sides of the mountains and hills. We traveled towards the central area and stayed to the east of the small river which had bridges over it with small ones for men and wider ones for their yaks and sheep. As we pitched our tents close to the main encampment we could smell the cook fires with their broiled meats and steaming pots, with all taking turns to ensure the last meal of the day would be ready when the daytime herders returned.

In the fading light I could only see one or two lookouts amongst the mountains which gave a feeling of safety that cannot be had in the open desert. Our traveling group joined in with the rest of the Yuezhi with some of the language problems dropping for at least simple sentences and responses. I could see Osthara and Alachendri talking on the other side of the cook fire and as we neared the end of the meal he came over to ask if I would like to see where the old Spire had stood. I agreed of course and asked what had happened to those at its base which was now partially filled with water. He said that they still live here, though underground, and if I liked we might travel to a cave at the far end of the valley to see if any wished to communicate, not talk strangely enough, with us. To this I readily agreed for it would be a chance to see if any of these stories had some truth to them. After that we are now bedding down and I write this by the dying firelight in the still night air of this nameless valley in the Pamirs.

"Now I'm not jumping ahead here, this is the next entry, nearly two weeks later."

Lisa looked up from her notes and the two looked at each other, and then Lisa nodded.

July 21st 1892

I am back at Li Jien. Sabir said that I had to be rescued from the cave and I had a fever that only broke yesterday after they brought me back. I remember nothing of that journey.

I remember walking across the valley and seeing the place that might have been a small island in the stream. How the pool was very deep with moving blackness at its bottomless end.

Very strange.

There was a small shard of red clear rock next to the water. I remember, yes, picking it up and feeling as if I was high above the ground and it was blackness around me with stars so very far off. It was fleeting, gone in a moment, yet breathtaking. Beautiful. Looking from that place I saw that it was a courtyard, yes and more. Not a normal place but... a gallows. A place of final decision yet not forever.

Going from there Alachendri with two Yuezhi boys, Sabir and Loo Sang with his two men appeared to notice nothing. I handed the shard to each and Alachendri said it was a shard from the Spire which the Yellow Emporer had replaced with a Red Jade Tree in his courtyard, a place of contemplation. None other expressed any feeling from the piece.

I thought I had it with me just now but apparently not.

The cave it was... there were some fracture lines around it as if it had been struck by a giant hammer ages ago. It looked as if it had been worked with large tools, chiseled perhaps, yet all was worn smoothe. Using our lanterns we stepped carefully as there were some crevices that were very deep that the unwary would find to their dismay. Alachendri picked a careful path until we went off to an apparent ending, but it had one small opening that allowed us to pass one by one. From there it opened up and there was a cavern, large enough to be a train station fit for any city. Small pools of water dotted the floor of the cavern, each black yet clear. We went down one path that was slick, a rivulet of water next to it. There were alcoves along this sloping path, other paths into darkness.

I remember... yes... sliding... losing my footing... a path to the side, my lantern lost. Darkness.

Enclosing darkness.

Voices distant then lost.

Then dampness. I struggled but could not work my way up.

I reached for my safety matches and struck one.

Liquid moving darkness under me, glistening, clinging to the walls. Touching me.

I felt.

Darkness speaks with a voiceless voice.

I will rest now.

July 22nd 1892

Awoke with a start in the middle of the night. I had wandered from my tent to the Tak-la-makan and looked out over its dunes from the top of drifting sand coming over a rise. I sat and stared into the blue black darkness, no cloud in the sky, no sound and only the soft sigh of the wind.


I remember seeing... something... it had told strange. The water blood of mother seeping from her body torn asunder... the spear point pinning her tail... father lifting his scaled head... the fury of the knife... and then... then... the great tearing at mother's body...

Shivering I slapped my arms around me.

The desert of death.

Her hand.

Holding us.

Even as her grandson buried her forever, she had been the mother of all.

I stand, barely able to shuffle. Retracing steps of father's fate at his place of destination.

Sleep beckons if I can but find it.

Lisa gasped.

"Her... her hand?"

Barbara wrote down a note and nodded.


Looking up Barbara saw that Lisa had gone very still.

"Was that the piece you were looking for?"

Lisa nodded.

"It is a name. The Great Hand Holding Asia made of red agate from its mother, its source."

Barbara blinked.

"But... who is it?"

Lisa looked puzzled.

"I... it comes out as... Tai-a-ma-te..."

Barbara inhaled and then put it together in her mind and was frightened before she spoke it, the nameless name cast in stone from the beginning of all stories.

* * *

Visual sensor input: 70%

Depth perception: 62%

Audio reception: 87%

Frame structural integrity, amended: 43%

Analysis routines: online, supplemental factory original variant by amended matrix.

Historical database: incomplete, variant, supplemented, amended, revised per quantum change.

Presently speaking. Individual, named Doctor Gotham, no first name given.

All analysis routines indicate 100% human, age 71.

Specification: Shop Owner.

Additional capabilities: historian, researcher.

Dress style: non-descript light business attire circa years 1968 to 1980.

Eyeglasses circa 1875 via maker inscription, right side, arm, forward of hinge.

Armed: currently armed with walking stick made of rosewood, threat factor 0.1.

Amended to prior speech during discussion dated 14 OCT 1984, place Wayne Tower, Meeting Room, Wayne Personal Quarters.

Current Time 1330.

Noted item: one box, wooden, local manufacture, recent, undated, contents unknown.

Historical database file for Rhinold, Chester now open.

Analysis routines: online for integration with semantic analysis.

Historical database file for Culligan, Martha now open.

Room temperature: 68 F.

Also present: Wayne, Bruce; Sgt. Rock, Frank; Pennyworth, Alfred; Lt. Carstairs, Martin; Rose, Vivian.

Supplemental files open per individual.

Information conformance level, current: 97%

Information conformance level, intermediate: 67%

Information conformance level, long-term: UKNOWN

Code analysis suite function level: nominal.

Subject matter: item left with Curiosity Shop by Culligan, Martha on date 15 MAR 1935.

Disposition: item lost, value paid for, item now being returned to heir Wayne, Bruce.

Information conformance level, human affairs: 85%

Information conformance level, time duration: 17%

Information conformance level, historical: UNKNOWN

Analysis: Unknown history, background and conformance levels indicate high variability to normal course of events.

Threat Level, current: 0

Threat Level, intermediate: UKNOWN

Threat Level, long-term: UNKNOWN

Current operational mode: Data ingest and analysis for historical work of Doctor Gotham and analysis of material in box is required to satisfy UKNOWN categories. Information is required for resolution of UNKNOWN responses.

Analysis: on-going.

* * *

"... called Tiamat. He recorded that the Lesser Yuezhi had given him the item as a gift after his travels amongst them in search of Xi Wangmu and her origins. After he arrived in Gotham and before he went insane it is obvious that Mr. Rhinold had tried to hide the talisman given him by the Lesser Yuezhi in a ledge of rock along the Gotham River at the North Shore Park near the Gotham Airfield. It was a popular place to go for family outings and to watch the planes land and take off. Why he did so I can only speculate, but that he had made no claims to the police for the item being lost nor did any of his family members remark on its absence at his death, nor was it mentioned in his will, it is apparent he meant to get rid of it. Thusly it passed to Martha Culligan who found it. Subsequently it was brought to the shop for cleaning, analysis and valuation and when misplaced she was given the equivalent funds in gem and precious metal weight. The obligation of the shop is that such an item belongs with its rightful owner or heir, and is to be returned. As it was the shop's fault that the item had gone missing any costs incurred are not to be recouped."

Alfred had pulled up a chair next to Bruce and was staring at Dr. Gotham.

"A most remarkable story," Alfred said.

Dr. Gotham nodded.

"I am sorry that this item has been for so long misplaced and can only hope that its restoration and prior restitution will be enough to satisfy its rightful owner."

Bruce eyed the box sitting on the table.

"What is the amulet or talisman, as you call it?"

Nodding Dr. Gotham brought out his item record sheet and passed that to Mr. Wayne.

"It is a multi-part piece indicating a number of craftsman having worked on it. The chain is of the most recent manufacture, done in gold and bought from the Dutch East Indies Company in the late 1780's. The upper pendant fixture has been reworked at least three times with the basic gold crown and stake work being the oldest and the addition of finer and more detailed work done in a primitive fashion, although well done for that. That portion hides an upper part of internal stonework that I believe to be of garnet with the lower portion being that of a tooth that is nearly 2 inches in length. Enclosing that work is formed amber that has been molded over the garnet and tooth by what I believe is an oil melt process used to clarify the amber as it is molded. Currently there are no visible seams in the amber and its clarity demonstrates that the internal parts are not native to it, as such a find would be an extreme rarity. Overall the piece has some resemblance to older Chinese work pre-Han Dynasty and also has similarities to known pieces in the later Kushun Empire. Dating is inexact, but may go back as far as the Yuezhi of the upper Pamir's or even before that to their time in what is modern day Mongolia. It is unique in its age and with multiple generations of workmanship only the latest date of the late 18th century can be said for a certainty, but only for the most recent part of the item."

Bruce looked at him.

"Is it a religious item?"

Dr. Gotham raised his eyebrow and blinked.

"I should say so, yes, at least to those who made it. A talisman of Tiamat is what is indicated, a tooth of her embedded in amber. The tooth bears no resemblance to any dinosauria, reptilian, crocadilian, amphibian or any other creature that I could find including those of the shark families. I could not date it, but the tooth appears not to be fossilized."

"Not fossilized?" Martin asked.

"Yes, Lieutenant Carstairs. I saw no evidence of fossilization nor of crystallization along its obvious surfaces. The upper garnet piece obscures the base of the tooth so that no direct visual assessment can be made of it."

Vivian had some of the papers Bruce had passed around the table and was looking at them, going from sheet to sheet before passing them Martin.

"So..." she started, "it was put at Doctor Gotham's Curiosity Shop, like it says on the receipt, right?"

"Yes, Pilot Rose."

She nodded.

"Then what happened to it? Between then and now, I mean."

Dr. Gotham smiled.

"It was misplaced."

"Uh-huh. On train 125, right?"

"I didn't catch the number of the train, but it was, yes."

"All right.... and was the train found recently?"

He pursed his lips together.

"Was it ever lost?"

Vivian blinked and looked at him.

"What do you mean by that?" Frank asked.

Dr. Gotham looked at him.

"Well, Sargent, in some ways it is still right here in Gotham. In others it couldn't be farther away than the farthest star."

"That's cryptic," Martin said.

Pursing his lips together Dr. Gotham nodded.

"Yes, in some ways it is I suppose. It is part of the nature of the object itself that allows such cryptic things to happen. It did not like being handled by one not its owner, at least so I thought at the time. Now I do wonder if this is, in some way, arranged from the moment Mr. Rhinold was given the talisman."

"Arranged?" Bruce asked, "You mean preplanned?"

"Not exactly, Mr. Wayne. In the way these things work a set of preconditions can be set up and then exploited in an opportunistic way by those seeking to mold events to their liking. In this case getting the item to Gotham seems to be the point of giving it to him, and now it has not been out of the immediate area for decades. That is not an accident, and while I wouldn't go and say it was by design due to those involved it is a set of preconditions that has happened and could be molded to certain ends."

Vivian shook her head.

"I'm not following that at all. Are you saying that something is, ah, happening because of the necklace?"

"Yes, exactly that."

"But how can that be?" Martin asked, "It's only a piece of jewelry, right?"

"Ah, it is that, yes. At least by appearance. Because it has an item from a living being encased and protected as part of it, there is some affinity to that being."

Bruce looked at Alfred who seemed surprised by this turn of events. Bruce turned back to look at Dr. Gotham.

"You don't mean to say that its... in communication with Tiamat, are you?" Bruce finally asked.

"That I can't say with complete certainty, Mr. Wayne, but it does seem to be a focal point of sorts connected to her. I do think the Yuezhi thought that it was, yes. Their Brotherhood would know better than I do, and they did indicate something of the sort in Mr. Rhinold's diaries. I can say that it has caused itself to not be available for some time with what I thought was a simple defensive reaction but now may be an actual purposeful event."

Frank held up a finger and looked puzzled.

"You side-tracked the discussion. You said that it was on a train that is and isn't there. Were you on that train, too?"

Dr. Gotham nodded.

"Yes. Out to deliver it to Martha Culligan."

"... then what happened to get you here?"

Dr. Gotham looked at the box.

"That which is inside that box. I was aware of it doing something as I went to deliver it to Martha Culligan and I felt it imperative to deliver it to its rightful owner. That is what one must do if they have something that was entrusted to them merely for study, after all. It didn't just go after me due to my traveling circumstances. Unable to get just me, or unsure if it could, it took the entire train which was a minor expansion of its power and achieved the same objective."

"Took it?" Vivian asked softly.

Frank looked at her then the Project.

"Took it where?"

"Into a pocket of no time in the subway tunnels near this building. Only an outside device allowed me to return. If it hadn't activated I would still be there, with the talisman."

"That is nonsense," Martin said, "you can't form a pocket of..." he looked at the Project, "... or can you?"

Martin inhaled and looked at the Project which sat impassively listening, watching.

"Tom? Is that possible?"

The Project looked at him.

"Another time traveler?" Vivian asked.

"From the past," Bruce whispered, "that is... can happen. We all do that. But if what you say happened is true..."

"It is," said Dr. Gotham.

"Yes. It is possible," the Project said.

Dr. Gotham looked at the Project and then at Vivian.

"What did you mean by 'another' time traveler?"

Vivian inhaled and bit her lower lip, turning to look at Bruce.

"She means that there has been another time traveler here before you. Two of them, actually, but from the same time."

Dr. Gotham leaned back and looked around the table.

"That is unexpected," he whispered.

"Tom, is that possible? A pocket of no time?"

The Project nodded looking at Bruce.

"Yes. A time displacement bubble like that used to transport me are quantum bubbles. There is no experienced transition time inside a quantum transport bubble and transportation is instantaneous. The placement of the bubble is quantum and cannot be observed."

"Can one go around an entire subway train?" Frank asked looking at the Project.

"Yes. A conformal manifold enclosure field is possible for larger items. Anything inside such an enclosure would experience similar effects as with a displacement bubble. This is called a stasis field when created to stop time within a field. Skynet had limited energy resources to create such enclosures for prior time frame casting and would be unable to create something that would enclose such a volume."

Nodding, Dr. Gotham looked at Tom raising an eyebrow.

"And you experienced this yourself?"

Tom turned to look at him.


Dr. Gotham looked puzzled.

"You can't get to the past you know. Nature prohibits that. Many have tried, all have failed."

"The originator of the time bubble transport system did not understand the nature of time with regards to this effect. It utilized only short duration trips that were confirmatory to its design specifications and expected, and did not properly test outside those limits. It was incompetent."

"Ah. That explains it. You seem the worse for wear."

"He is," Bruce said, "and we are doing our best to remedy that."

"You don't look like you came from the 1930's," Vivian said, "don't dress like it or act like it."

"I changed clothes when I got back to the shop as many different sets have arrived there over the intervening years. I had left instructions there along with service accounts to assure continued operation of the shop in case of my absence. Upon my return I utilized clothes that had come in since my departure so as to fit in with my surroundings."

"You are apparently unphased by this turn of events," Alfred said.

Dr. Gotham nodded.

"Changes are expected over time, Mr. Pennyworth. I am more driven by the return of the item involved than the immediate affairs of those in Gotham City. Once the item is returned I will concern myself, once more, with observing Gotham and its inhabitants while running a small shop that few will ever seek or find."

"I would sure as hell be disoriented," Vivian said.

Looking at her, Dr. Gotham smiled.

"Gotham is its own orientation, Pilot Rose. Its surface and appearance may change, but its nature never does. When one is attuned to its nature then understanding the superficial changes is easy."

"So let me get this straight," Martin said using his right index finger to tick off points using his left hand, "this Chester Rhinold goes to China and gets this artifact, point one."

Dr. Gotham nodded.

"Point two is Martha Culligan finding the artifact after Rhinold tried to get rid of it, right?"


"Why not just throw it into the sea?" Frank asked.

"Because of its nature it would be found quite easily in the sea. In a brackish cave above the sea level, in a pocket area that would not flood no matter if the sea rushed in due to storms or other events and out of sight it might remain for millenia. Only chance discovery would find it."

Frank raised an eyebrow.

"Who would find it if it was thrown into the ocean?"

"Denizens of the sea," Dr. Gotham said looking at them, "to them such an item is worth having even if it would only do them harm as it is a representation of power if not the power itself. They are attuned to such things."

Sgt. Rock looked non-plussed and shook his head.

"Now you are sounding like the people who spread stories about Kingsport and Innsmouth."

"As you will, Sargent. All stories have some basis in truth, although they can be hard to discern."

"Third," Martin said continuing, "Martha takes the amulet to you for investigation and cleaning and then when you try to return it you get trapped in a time transport field or a stasis field."


"Fourth is something you leave behind somehow gets you out of that field, right?"

"Yes. I had created an alarm system to contact me if the shop was broken into. A warder would take care of things until I or a proper shopkeeper arrived."

"Your shop was broken into recently?" Alfred asked.

"On Friday night late, yes. I spent most of yesterday ensuring that no new discoveries had been made with regards to the item and then making a new box for it as the prior one had not been sufficiently stout enough to hold the item."

"But how did it recall you from the stasis field?" Bruce asked.

"The alarm must deliver a message to me if I am alive, it has that as an imperative. It seeks out the nearest affinity point to me if I am not in Gotham or contained within Gotham and then establishes a link at that point to deliver the message. To deliver a message I must be within normal time constraints, thus the congruence of affinity moved me out of the place where the field was to that nearest affinity point, which was a subway car that was nearing this building. Such high levels of affinity of type, placement and kind make such a transition much easier to accomplish."

"It put you in a WIST train taking you to Wayne Tower on Friday night?"

"Yes, Mr. Wayne. I was most gratified to see that it was also Cooper Station which was my destination so as to cross to North Gotham."

Bruce turned to Alfred.

"Is there any way we can confirm that?"

Alfred inhaled but before he could speak Martin spoke up.

"Sure there is, Mr. Wayne. I can call up Kevin Johnston who heads up the weekend shift, he should still be around. Do you want me to do that?"

Bruce nodded and Martin got up from his seat and went to the phone at the side table and punched in the number for security.

While he was on the phone, Rose looked at Dr. Gotham and then Bruce.

"Is that thing safe to open?" she said indicating the box.

Dr. Gotham pursed his lips.

"Once its rightful owner takes possession, then it is safe for opening at his or her allowance. As of this point while it is nominally that of Mr. Wayne's, he has yet to agree that the conditions for it being his are met. He must agree that the lawful conditions of transition are met for that to happen."

"And if I don't?"

Dr. Gotham inhaled.

"The shop only paid for lost worth and value, not to take ownership of the item. The item is not of the shop nor am I the item's owner. At this point I will no longer pick it up without allowance, and even then I would refuse given my past experience with it. If you refuse it, Mr. Wayne, it will sit there until someone claims it. And it will have a claimant even if it sits there until you are dead, although I doubt that it would remain out of circulation for very long now that it is back into normal Gotham environs. Events will move it out of here if it is unclaimed. I have experienced what it can do first hand and have no wish to repeat that. I only serve Gotham, I am not its protector."

Martin sat down after hanging up the phone.

"Kevin described an older man with glasses and walking stick or cane, in out dated clothing. He said he remembered him because it was a good turn of the century costume, one of the best he had seen."

Dr. Gotham nodded.

"It was my business traveling attire."

"So that fits," Frank said looking at Rose, "now how the hell did your alarm communicate to you inside that train?"

"It has affinity with me as I am the one that made it."

"If you may excuse us, Dr. Gotham, but that sounds more like magic than alarm equipment," Alfred said.

"Yes, Mr. Pennyworth, that is an overused term. Affinity is a trait applicable to any thing living, dead or even unliving, and that is part of its nature. It can also be an activity which is how we see it most often. The cases of an explosive going off and then, at some distance deemed 'safe' a sympathetic explosion being caused in a like explosive material are documented and known. That is affinity in action. When one makes something there is an affinity of making between that which is made and that which makes it, which we call craftsmanship or artistry. So much is made by machine, today, that things made this way feel cold, lifeless while a hand built piece feels warm and comforting because it is made by someone with intent to accomplish. That is the difference between mere shelter and home. There is some symbology and other purposeful things that can be done to help reinforce this or to give subtle nuances to that composition to make them stronger and more capable in some respect or aspect of the design, both, but those are not the power of the making itself. Any craftsman who makes a table, a chair or who puts together a hand forged iron railing can tell you about this feeling and you can feel it when you are with such things. To me these things are not 'magic' but just how well you can make an item, or utilize its capabilities based on what it starts out as and what it is to be. The best texts on this feeling are not from the fakes and frauds of magic or alchemy, but those of the simple and humble craftsman who talks of what care is needed to make something sturdy and long lasting. If one starts out with herbs and funny words and chants then your actual chance of making something of value or doing something of positive aspect are scant. The carpenter or blacksmith is far more powerful than these with the incense and costumes, because they work to perform and create, and do not expect it to arrive because of some words and symbols that are not made without meaning, without care, without hard work. An alarm in my shop was an important thing to make and I made it subtle and strong, so that even in its diminished state over decades it could still function and find me if I were still alive to deliver its message."

"Sounds like magic to me," Vivian said looking first at Alfred and then at the Project which was looking at Dr. Gotham.

Dr. Gotham shrugged.

"I can explain it no better without some weeks of having to teach it and then see if you are any sort of craftsman to start with as that is the foundation of all further work."

Bruce and Alfred looked at each other with Alfred looking a bit worried and puzzled, while Bruce was calm. Bruce turned to look at Frank, who was now sitting back in his chair.

"Frank? What do you think?"

Frank smiled and looked at him.

"Bruce, I've experienced a lot of strange things in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, England, France and Germany. This is damned strange, yeah, but hangs together just not like you would expect it to."

"Should I accept the necklace?"

Frank inhaled and put his forearms on the table.

"Your mother found it, Bruce. I even remember this jewelry register of hers," he said taking it up from the table and then flipping through it, "and you might be interested in the last page she used."

With the notebook opened to the last written page Frank handed it over to Bruce, who read it.

"June 12th, 1948

Today the accounts of this register are closed and transferred to the Wayne Investment Trust so as to help in acquiring the faltering businesses that we have part ownership in. All my jewelry is put into the trust and the outstanding funds are now put into holdings of Wayne Industries."

His hands trembling, Bruce passed the register on to Alfred who nodded and then passed it to Vivian.

"It is a cornerstone of Wayne Industries," Bruce said looking at Frank.

Frank smiled.

"Everything around you the Tower, the buildings, the corporation, and you are all due to that and what they did together before starting their family. Those were good years, Bruce."

Vivian handed the register to Martin who glanced at it before handing it to the Project which then riffled through the pages while staring at the book. After a few seconds it handed the register back to Frank.

"I have problems with what you are saying, Dr. Gotham," Bruce said, "because it is fantastical. Yet there is also evidence, your notes and the fact that in some way your shop paid for a part of Wayne Industries via the family Trust."

"Your parents were most wise in creating that trust, Mr. Wayne. It is, in its own way, a form of power and affinity, both."

Vivian smiled, "I think I'm kinda getting that, now," she said turning to Bruce.

"So am I, Vivian," Bruce said, "it's not... easy to understand, is it?"

She shook her head 'no'.


Martin Carstairs turned his head to look at Bruce.

"It's a damned strange story, that's for sure, Mr. Wayne. But it's Gotham City and I've heard some things just as strange in different ways from living here and being on the force here. I rank this right up there with the Ghost Trains, except they don't leave pieces of themselves around for people to find. A body here and there, maybe, but nothing of a train, ghost or otherwise."

Bruce glanced at Dr. Gotham before looking at Tom.


The Project turned its head to look at him, its body still.

"Yes, Mr. Wayne?"

"Is there anything you can add to this?"

"Dr. Gotham has no dental work. His eyesight is perfect and the glasses are flat glass with no correction. The glasses date from 1875 via inscription on frame. His clothing dates from late 1960's to early 1980's and appear to have normal wear and are current for this time period via observations of clothing utility. His walking stick has a silver head dating from Sheffield, Great Britain circa 1890. The box is of current manufacture with surficial design work in both the wood and finish. It is currently 3 degrees above background room temperature and remains constant at that level and rates as a nominal Class 2 Supranormal object."

"A class 2 what?" Alfred asked.

"It is a Skynet derived classification system, Mr. Pennyworth, to describe phenomena that do not fall within standard normal physical model theories but have measurable phenomena."

Frank looked at the Project.

"You haven't said anything about this before."

"There has been no need to bring it up, Sgt. Rock. All phenomena below Class 5 are of zero threat value and limited informational value beyond being present."

Dr. Gotham looked at the Project and smiled.

"You appear to have some Supranormal capabilities yourself, Mr. Octurian."

The Project turned to him.

"They are within normal physical model capabilities, Dr. Gotham."

"I would suspect that such future that you came from would have more refined capabilities, yes. Just like the current present of Gotham is more refined than the past it came from."

"Thank you, Tom," Bruce said looking between the two, the machine from the future and the man from the past.

"Dr. Gotham, I will accept the item on condition that it is as described in the materials that have described it previously."

Dr. Gotham nodded, "That is perfectly satisfactory, Mr. Wayne."

Bruce reached out and took the box up and pressed in the hasp to look at the amulet and the small pillow it was on.

"I accept it."

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