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The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, was a tower built between 280 and 247 BC on the island of Pharos at Alexandria, Egypt to guide sailors into the harbour at night. With a height variously estimated at between 393 and 450 ft (120 and 140 m), it was for many centuries among the tallest man-made structures, and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  

-- Source: Wikipedia.com


 


David Sakmyster's latest novel is The Pharos Objective (Variance, 2010), book one in a trilogy about a team of remote-viewers trying to discover lost artifacts of mystical power. Book two in this series is finished, and he is currently writing book three. David has also published over twenty stories in various small press magazines and a few larger ones.
In 1998, David published his first novel Twilight of the Fifth Sun (Dragon Moon Press) - a historical ghost story. His short story, The Red Envelope, was published in the L Ron Hubbard annual anthology (sales of approx 50,000 copies each year) in 2005, and Dragon Moon Press published his gold-rush era adventure novel, Silver and Gold in 2009, which went on to be a finalist in Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards.


The Pharos Objective

by David Sakmyster

Morpheus (Greek: Μορφέας, Μορφεύς, ―he who forms, shapes, moulds.). The Greek god of dreams, Morpheus is the son of Hypnos, the god of sleep, and Pasithea, the goddess of hallucination, her name meaning ―acquired sight..

 

PROLOGUE

Pharos Island, Alexandria, Egypt—861 A.D.

One hundred sleek Arabian horses and their dark riders, carrying torches and armed with hammers, pikes and rusty axes, thundered across the wave-battered promontory toward the lighthouse. The riders roared past Dakhil, who stood upon the crumbling red granite stairs between two colossal statues with missing limbs and fractured torsos. In the shadow of the towering Pharos Lighthouse, Dakhil imagined that the sun had been anchored permanently behind the massive structure, unable to escape its dominion.

He trembled as the riders headed straight into the arched doorway—the toothless, yawning mouth of the Pharos—and he shivered as the Mediterranean winds tugged at his black robes and snatched at his turban. The ancient lighthouse stood in silent indifference, and by a trick of light and shadow it appeared to be expanding, calmly breathing in the Muslim riders, inhaling men and horses alike.

―I hope you have been true to me,. said a voice at his shoulder. Dakhil turned to face Barraq Naj-deelen, caliph of Alexandria and commander of the military forces occupying the city.

Alexandria had fallen to the Muslims two hundred years earlier with little resistance from the Christians. Once the jewel of the Roman-Egyptian era, an unparalleled center of wealth and knowledge, the gods had all but abandoned Alexandria; and now the once-proud cosmopolitan city was a mere strategic port, valued only for its access to the rich interior trade routes. And of course, for its military potential. This harbor, well-protected by jagged reefs and low-lying shoals, had seen fleet after fleet sail against Constantinople while enjoying the defense of the marvelous Pharos Lighthouse.

Barraq knew his enemy would eventually seek to recapture the city. ―The infidel King Michael despises the Pharos. It is a sign of our strength and a looming reminder of Christian impotence.. He breathed in the sea air, and his long, oily beard whipped over his shoulder.

―I have spoken only the truth,. Dakhil said, nervously taking a step back.

High above, the great mirror, a twenty-foot disc of reflective metal, scratched and clouded with age, winked at him, threatening to expose his lies.

Barraq tilted his head back. ―You have been in Constantinople two years, my friend. Perhaps they found you out as my spy, and in exchange for your life you offered to come back here with malicious rumors?.

―No, My Lord. I am ever your loyal servant..

―We shall see.. Barraq let his fingers drop to his belt and carefully trace the hilt of his scimitar. ―This treasure—you do not have further specifics?.

―My Lord?. Dakhil trembled again, and wished he could step out of the shadow of the lighthouse. All the way up its precipitous walls, the crumbling statues of the ancient gods of Egypt, Greece and Rome pointed accusingly at him while the tower itself appeared to lean over for a closer look.

―What is it exactly? The men speak of Alexander the Great‘s lost hoard. Is it gold and silver? Jewels beyond compare . . . ?.

―More valuable still,. Dakhil said, and again offered a prayer to all the gods that were ever dreamed up by men, hoping the legends were true. The timing for this had to be perfect. He had inherited certain knowledge, information that was beyond the understanding of popes, kings or caliphs. Information, he had been told, that must remain hidden until directed otherwise.

But Dakhil was not one for patience. The title of Keeper did not suit him. Life was short, and who knew if the world would continue to exist after his own breath expired? So he had decided to release just a hint of what he knew, disguised as a rumor from the enemy‘s camp, hoping to excite the caliph‘s men to do what he himself could not. Brute force would surely succeed where patience had failed.

―What could be more valuable?. Barraq asked. Suspicion flashed in his eyes.

Just then, a muffled cry reached their ears from above. A shout, then a horrifying scream. Barraq and Dakhil looked up and shrank back, although they were in no danger. The huge mirror had been wrenched free of its mounts in the zeal of the treasure-seekers and rolled out one of the porticos and over the edge hundreds of feet up. It took two men with it, rotating end over end as it plummeted from the top spire and slammed onto a ledge, crushing one man and dislodging a hail of stone and debris before it bounced off and plunged another two hundred feet. Finally, upon the limestone blocks of the courtyard, it shattered in an eruption of glass and metal, releasing a tortured cry—a lament for the end of its twelvehundred-year existence.

Dakhil cursed. ―Why did they go up? That was not the way. The secret tunnels . . . the chambers are below the foundation!.

Barraq waved away his protests. ―I instructed my men to be thorough..

―Fools,. Dakhil whispered. He now began to fear that the caliph‘s men were not up to the task. Barraq withdrew a stick of dried wheat from his saddlebag and chewed its tip.
―Tell me, Dakhil, what reward would you ask if we find this treasure?. Still ruing the loss of such a mighty artifact, the great mirror that had reflected the sights of a millennium, Dakhil said, ―I would ask, My Lord, for but one item..

―One only?.

―Yes, if I may have first pick. A little thing, of no use to anyone..

Barraq studied him. ―If no one else has use for it, why would you?.

Dakhil shrugged. ―To own something from a lost age . . . such a possession would be priceless.. He hoped his answer would satisfy the caliph. Of course, Dakhil knew exactly what he wanted: the most powerful item in the collection. He had done his research, he had memorized the catalog, he knew right where it was.

The trick would be to find it and take it before the wrath of the soldiers and the caliph descended on him. However, if the legends were correct and the lighthouse defenses truly existed as rumored, his job might be easier. He felt the metal edge of his sword against his hip, and the two daggers in his boots chafed against his skin. I shall have to be quick. Barraq made a sound like a mocking laugh, but before he could speak, an ominous roar came from the lighthouse. This time, it was accompanied by a rumbling under the earth. The tower itself began to tremble and a great dust cloud burst from the doorway and hissed from the hundred windows and cracks in the lower section.

Dakhil started to run toward the entrance with Barraq close behind. They climbed the flight of eroded stairs, raced past toppled statues and across an overgrown courtyard toward the door, where three men just now emerged, blackfaced and covered with dust. Coughing, they dropped to their knees, one man holding up his hand. Blood oozed from his ears and his nose, one eye ruined.

―Gone, gone!. he cried, even as his comrades fell, spitting up blood and then lying still.

Barraq grabbed the survivor and shook him to his feet. ―Speak, fool! What happened?.

―A door—. He coughed out blood, speckling Barraq‘s face. ―—strange signs upon it . . . twisting serpents and a staff. We could not open it. We three returned to seek your advice, to call for the Magi. But the others . . . they would not wait..

Barraq shook him again, harder. ―What happened?.

―Hammers! I heard hammers striking the door, then.—he gasped and clawed at Barraq‘s face—―they screamed, .Trap! It‘s a trap!‘ The walls shook, the floor gave way. Then the sound.—another coughing fit seized his body—―of a roaring wave..

Barraq slowly turned to Dakhil as he let the man drop to the ground. ―A trap . . .. he echoed, just as other men began streaming out of the doorway.

Dakhil reached for his sword, and they fell upon him before it cleared the sheath.

# # #

The seventeen men who survived had been higher up in the tower. The other eighty-three, including their horses, had, by some unknown device, been swept out into the harbor.

Dakhil was led to the rocky shore east of the lighthouse and was forced to watch the bodies of those he had betrayed wash up against the stones, forced to stare at those he had sent to their deaths, their bloated, battered corpses a testament to his impatience.

He looked on, attempting stoicism, even as Barraq‘s men set about sawing off his hands at the wrists and his feet at the ankles. Amidst his screams, they cauterized the stumps with flames from an oil-soaked torch and then chained him to the rocks in the water at the base of the lighthouse, facing west, away from Mecca.

At one point during the ensuing days of agony, as the gulls and the ravenous fish came to feast on his flesh, Dakhil recalled the old Greek legend of Prometheus. He had, after all, merely longed to bring light into the world, to present a powerful gift to mankind. Unlike Prometheus, he had failed; but like the Titan, he had nevertheless been ruthlessly punished.

Barraq left him there after retrieving the dead and placing a team of six men at the summit to staff a continually burning pyre. They could not afford to lose any more ships in the treacherous harbor, and their vigilance against Constantinople must not cease. He rode off on the tenth day of Dakhil‘s slow death, too soon to see the lone boat steal across the harbor through the moonless night.

A man in a gray cloak stepped out onto the embankment and calmly traversed the rocks until he reached the dying man. ―It seems,. he said after a moment of contemplation, ―your father chose poorly..

Dakhil moaned. His chewed-out eye sockets, above the ragged flesh and protruding cheekbones, turned toward the sound. His lungs choked on seawater and congealed blood. ―No . . ..
―We are Keepers,. said the stranger. ―Keepers. A sacred trust we have held for centuries. I cannot forgive what you have done.. ―Believed . . . it was time,. Dakhil muttered as the water crashed over his emaciated body and the cloaked form bent over him.
―It is not for us to decide the time. Only to keep the secret until the world is ready.. The words, spoken deeply, powerfully, came from within the folds of his hood.
―In the meantime, the Pharos protects itself. The Pharos has always protected itself.. Dakhil moaned.

The cloaked stranger moved in closer. ―While I cannot forgive, I can be merciful.. A thin blade cut through Dakhil‘s throat with almost no resistance and produced very little blood. A soft gasp wheezed into the surf. The man stood up. He bowed his head toward the flickering beacon high above in a final sign of respect and a renewed commitment to its protection. Then, with a heavy sigh, he made his way back into his boat and sailed into the shadows.
 


BOOK ONE

—THE LIGHTHOUSE—

Whoever wants to conquer Egypt has to conquer Alexandria, and whoever wants to conquer Alexandria has to conquer the Harbor.  

— Julius Caesar, The Alexandrian War

1

Alexandria—December

Sixty feet under the harbor‘s churning waves, his blue fins kicking just above the reef‘s dangerous uppermost protrusions, Professor Caleb Crowe held the grapefruit-sized marble head in his bare hands, letting the colder currents wash off the sediment and muck. He turned the sculpture around, marveling at the late classical Egyptian artistry—the perfect symmetry, the deep-set, thoughtful eyes.

Isis.

The headdress and the Sothis star on her forehead placed this artifact in the Ptolemaic Dynasty—just about the right age. He reached for the camera hanging from his neck, considering how he might use this photo in a series of Ancient History lectures he was currently preparing for the spring semester at Columbia.

In the shadowy depths, the reefs and amphorae intermingled with the huge rocks, immense pillars and chunks of masonry thrust between the long-forgotten shipwrecks. Caleb‘s breathing quickened, echoing in his ears even as the Mediterranean‘s pressure squeezed his head in its grip. The current tugged him sideways into a massive block of moss-coated basalt.

He let go of the camera and reached out to steady himself. And as Isis looked on, the bare skin on his fingers touched the ancient slab — and something like an electric jolt ripped through his nervous system, starting at the base of his spine and spearing out in all directions. The water shimmered, the sea bottom shuddered, and a red-hot pain tore open the doors to his mind, barged inside and exploded in a blast of golden light like a swarm of maddened yellow jackets on fire, careening off the insides of his skull.

Caleb hadn‘t had a clairvoyant vision in more than four years, and to have it strike now, of all times, at the bottom of Alexandria‘s harbor, with his air running out and his dive partner wandering off on his own somewhere beyond the dim shadows, was about as dangerous as it was startling. The vision ripped through him like a teasing jolt of pleasure, then just as quickly left him alone again in the cold water, with Isis‘s eyes looking upon him with pity.

There was a brief moment of confusion, then it returned with a vengeance. He doubled over, hyperventilating, burning through his oxygen, seeing . . . His mind reeled and his stomach twisted. An armada of bubbles surrounded his head like ravenous fish, nipping at his skin, shouting out alarms. But his eyes, wide open, no longer perceived what lay before him, for they strode with his mind...

...to the tower . . .the lighthouse . . .the Pharos ...there it is, rising before him, a three-stage construction, almost four hundred feet high, tapering to a glorious spire that seems to challenge the simmering Egyptian sun itself. The tower.s outer casing glitters on the western side, reflecting the sun with the light of a thousand stars, and all along its ascent hang statues of divinities and mythical guardians, peering down from their lofty perches.

He tears his eyes away and blinks, bringing into focus the man standing on the steps, welcoming him. A man he instinctively knows as the architect of the Pharos: Sostratus of Cnidos.

"Welcome, Demetrius," he says. "Come, I have much to show you."

Seeing through Demetrius‘s eyes, Caleb speaks as if following a wellrehearsed script. His voice cracks and the words spill like gravel off his parched tongue. "Sostratus, engineering wonder this may be, yet it has the imposing grandeur, aura and beauty of the divine. My friend, this lighthouse will be adored for ages."

Sostratus turns and looks up at his handiwork. "I hope you are right, and humbly, I trust in the gods that I have built it well enough to last."

He helps Demetrius up the final steps into the courtyard, where doves and sparrows coo in transplanted palm trees and fountains pour out fresh reservoir water at each of the cardinal points.

"And it is not yet done." Sostratus raises his hand to the distant, dwindling spire atop the converging stages; past the mammoth two-hundred-foot rectangular lower section, pierced with three hundred windows; beyond the octagonal second stage, rising a hundred feet more, to the last part ascending the final hundred feet.

Tiny forms climb on ropes and chisel at sections on the spire, at the cupola and the pillars around the beacon, working like industrious ants.

"I apologize that the masons have not yet removed the scaffolding. We are still hauling up stone for the outer casing and, of course, the great golden statue of Poseidon has yet to arrive by barge from Memphis. I have invited Euclid to pay me a visit and calculate how best to raise it to the apex."

Demetrius makes a grunting sound, then reaches over and clasps his friend.

"By Jupiter, you have done it."

"Why so shocked, my friend? Surely you have watched my progress from your precious library across the harbor?"

Demetrius stops and teeters as he cranes his neck and gazes up. "In the scroll rooms, there are few windows. We need to safeguard the world.s most important books, not expose them to the elements."

Sostratus chuckles. "Well said. And of course, in all your courtyard festivals you never thought to lift your head over the wall and glance westward to admire my creation?"

Demetrius looks down at his sandaled feet, taking strange comfort from such a common sight. "I have, my friend, I have. A remarkable achievement, your lighthouse has become an integral part of the landscape in the mere twelve years it has taken to build. Alexandrians may take it for granted, yet they speak of little else but its completion and the coming festivals Ptolemy has planned for its dedication day. Your lighthouse has, in fact, become synonymous with Alexandria. The thousands of daily visitors to our harbors are awestruck by its magnificence.

Indeed, it is the first thing they see, well before the coast even appears." Sostratus smiles. "I hear they are already calling it „The Pharos,. after the island itself."

"True, Homer.s little epilogue in the Odyssey granted us fame enough."

"Even if he had it wrong. Egyptian settlers at Rhakotis told Menelaus the island belonged to Pharaoh, and out of ignorance, the name stuck. Pharos Island."

Demetrius nods, waving off the same boring discussion he.s endured uncounted times. "Believe me, I know the tale well. We have over ninety copies, translated into fourteen languages, with scholars working on the Iliad now."

"Wonderful ambitions you have," Sostratus says, intending the complement to be genuine, however eliciting a wounded look from Demetrius. "Or is it our king.s ambition?"

"A little of both. Although, from time to time I have to fuel our benefactor.s interests." Sostratus nods in empathy. "Now, my friend, do I get the promised tour, or must I wait another twelve years?"

"In just a moment. First I want you to look up, right there." He points to a low-level scaffold, untended for the moment, above which a lengthy inscription is chiseled in Greek letters large enough to be seen by arriving ships in the Eastern Harbor.

Demetrius squints and reads it aloud:

"SOSTRATUS OF CNIDOS, SON OF DEXIFANOS, DEDICATES THIS TO THE SAVIOR GODS ON BEHALF OF THOSE WHO SAIL THE SEAS."

He blinks. "All honor to Castor and Pollux aside, I think Ptolemy Philadelphus may have something to say about your name on his monument."

"Indeed he would," Sostratus says, his lips curling into a grin, "if this were what he saw. Our king wants his credit, and he shall have it. I am humble and patient. My thoughts are ever in the future, beyond the horizon of mere generations."

"What are you going to do?" Demetrius asks, genuinely confused.

"Tonight, when the sun.s heat diminishes, my slaves will cement over this inscription and carve into it all the credit due our great king."

A smile creeps across Demetrius.s face. "Ah, ingenious! Assuming your slaves are mute, or you have them killed, in time, the cement will crumble and erode away, revealing your name."

Sostratus spreads out his arms and closes his eyes, basking in some private, faraway vision. "I shall be immortal."

"I had not thought you so vain. Is it so vital that you are remembered?"

"Only for what I have done. It is the same with your books, no? Those authors, their wisdom must endure. Hence the need for your library."

Demetrius nods. "Of course, but—"

"This tower is important in more ways than are immediately obvious. Beyond safety, beyond practicality, beyond a mere symbol of our grand city and a testament to Alexander.s genius. Beyond all that, I intend it to house something even more precious, something that, like my inscription above, will emerge in time and bring truth to a clouded world."

"Then by all means, sir." Demetrius bows. "Now . . . the tour?"

High above, the sun peeks through the open-air cupola between gilded pillars supporting the roof where Poseidon.s feet are destined to stand. A lone hawk circles the mid-section, vainly beating its wings to ascend farther.

# # #

Caleb gagged, reached for the fading vision and saw his fingers spear through a cascade of bubbles—bubbles spewing from his own throat. He‘d spit his mouthpiece out! The world was darkening, his mouth filling with foul water.

For so many years he had pushed this power away, dreading the visions that came: horrific sights of metal cages in the mountains, of emaciated hands reaching through the bars, of whimpers and moans and cries for help. Visions dredged up by a talent he couldn‘t control, alive with sights, sounds and smells. A gift he‘d never wanted. A curse.

But today was different. What he saw was new—an original, unprovoked vision. Too bad it would be the last vision he ever saw. Then it surged back, and . . .

. . . Demetrius whispers, "It.s marvelous." He shuffles around two slaves at work polishing a marble Triton as he exits the hydraulic lift, the water-powered elevator that has shot them up three levels in less than a minute. He steps up to the terrace.s southern wall. Mouth open, he gapes at the view: the sprawling twin harbors below, the Heptastadion connecting the mainland to Pharos Island, the hundreds of multicolored sails dotting the sea and the boats anchored at the docks, the wide stretch of the magnificent Imperial Palace, and behind it, the gymnasium, the Temple of Serapis . . . and there, the shining walls and columns and the golden domed roof of the museum. Inside its walls are the library and the mausoleum of Alexander, whom Ptolemy buried there, establishing his direct connection to the legend.

"Incredible, seeing it from this vantage." His gaze follows the Street of Canopus from the Moon Gate by the sea across Alexandria and through the Gate of the Sun, parallel to the canal connecting to the Nile, then weaving across the sands back through the haze and dust of the desert toward Memphis and Upper Egypt. The fierce cobalt sky engulfs all else, until the startling turquoise sea grazes at the horizon and consumes everything beyond. Over the dark blue waves, the shadow of the Pharos arches to the east as a lone marker etching its imprint upon nature as it would graft itself onto human consciousness for millennia to come.

"You were saying?" Demetrius takes great gulps of air and slowly backs away from the edge.

Sostratus takes his arm and leads him inside the spire to a staircase weaving in a double spiral up the last hundred feet. "I was speaking of impermanence and of a future that is even beyond the sight of the oracles."

"If even the gods are blind to it, then what must we fear?"

"The unknown." Sostratus speaks as they make the same ascent he has made three or four times a day for the past three years. His friend, unconditioned to the exertion necessary for such a climb, needs to rest.

"Must we continue to the top?"

"I wish to show you something before we go back down—down into the very bowels of the earth to illuminate the real reason you are here."

Demetrius shoots him a look. "What, was it not for the view?"

"Not entirely. Come, we are almost there."

Caleb bolted back to the present, fighting the brackish, cold water rushing into his lungs. He screamed—or tried to—dimly aware of another figure swimming toward him. The darkness softened until it gave way to the bright light of day, and a familiar man in white robes . . .

. . . emerges alone at the top. Sostratus climbs inside the "lantern," a thirtyfoot-wide cupola, where four marble pillars, fitted with rare gems and studded with embroidered gold, support a domed roof twenty feet overhead. In the center of the floor, the empty brazier stands ready for its sacred task of alerting and guiding ships safely into the harbors past the deadly silt banks, shoals and reefs that for centuries have been the bane of seafarers. Sailors will be guided by fire at night, and by smoke during the day, the black coils visible long before even the tower emerges into view.

A noise at his back makes him smile. Demetrius appears from the trap door, holding his side and wheezing. He sits on the top step and glances around while wiping thick beads of sweat from his forehead. "I don.t believe I.ll look over the edge. Maybe next time."

"Entirely understandable. But come,"—he motions to Demetrius to get up— "witness these automatons." Great statues, twice the size of men, stand at three of the corners of the platform. "I.m sure you are familiar with Heron.s designs and inventions outlined in the Pneumatica."

Demetrius nods, even though he.d had time only for a perusal of Heron.s work before other scholars, including Hipparchus, snatched it up to examine and debate with its author on the principles of hydraulics and thermodynamics.

"This one," Sostratus says, pointing to a muscled statue in the likeness of Hermes with his finger outstretched along his angled arm, "was designed with help from your resident astronomer Aristarchus. It tracks the daily path of the sun, precisely mirroring its trails and changing with the seasons. "That one there"—he points to the western edge, where a silver-plated robed female faces the Imperial Palace and leans forward with hands cupped around her mouth—"screeches out a warning of the presence of a hostile fleet if one of the attendants trips that switch.

The whole city can be mobilized hours before invading ships can be seen from the shore."

Demetrius mumbles something lost in the winds, then rises to his feet. "And that last one?"

Sostratus laughs. "A trivial magician's trick. It calls out the hours of the day. But here is what I am most proud of." He lifts a heavy tarp, releases it from its bindings, and lets the wind rip it free, flinging it from the spire to sail with the winds out over the hills and the rooftops of Alexandria. "The great mirror."

Demetrius gasps at the immense circular sheet of polished glass adhered to a thick layer of metal. He looks into its surface, and sees himself reflected back, but at reduced size.

"A finely polished lens." Sostratus smiles. "It will direct the beacon.s fire by night, sending a beam out to sea to guide ships or, perhaps, harness the rays of the sun and set them to flames."

"Apollo.s blood," Demetrius whispers, hands shaking. "And you can move it, direct it?"

"We will have that capability, yes. Once mounted on the outstretched hand of Poseidon,

we will control the statue by means of gears and levers."

"Fantastic." Demetrius involuntarily glances down—all the way down— where his gaze settles on the tiny dome of his library. "So, my friend, why did you really call me here if not for the enviable experience of being the first to have such a tour?"

Sostratus turns his back on his guest and stares out to sea, arms folded.

"This was merely prelude, so that you could understand the extent of my tower's defenses, the sturdiness of its construction, how I have built it to withstand the elements and the ire of the earth itself."

"Fine, I have witnessed it. To what end?"

Sostratus coughs. "Do you know what the high priest of Memphis said when Alexander.s funeral procession passed through his city?"

"No."

"He said, 'Bury him not here, for where that man lies only war and strife will endure' "

Demetrius remains silent, and listens only to the sound of the wind rustling through his clothes. "I.m sorry, my friend, I cannot fathom what this has to do with me. I understand your fears of war and how this lighthouse has been outfitted as more than a mere beacon, but—"Sostratus turns abruptly. "Come with me back to the ground floor, then below it, beyond the hydraulic workings and through the tunnels under the harbor. There I will show you the true function of this tower."

"But why me?" Demetrius asks, struggling to keep up as Sostratus starts back down. Immediately, he is pleased to find the descent infinitely more comfortable than the climb.

"Patience, my friend. You are about to see." Sostratus leads the way, and they descend in silence, circling, moving ever deeper with each successive stage. "And before you glimpse into the vault that will house the greatest treasure ever assembled, I ask only for one thing—your pledge to guard its secret with your life."

# # #

Caleb saw it all in a flash, as though time had altogether stopped its forward march while his mind processed the visions breath by breath, full of all the sense and clarity of lived experience. But then it moved on and everything shifted back into place.

The water slammed him into reality. The bubbles, the currents, the mouthpiece flailing in the spirals of muck rising from his thrashing feet . . . the statue head falling from his grasp. And then other hands on him, holding him, forcing a spare mouthpiece between his lips. Gagging, choking, coughing. He kicked away. Disoriented, his mind still straddling two millennia, he broke free and sped upward, heedless of everything but the need to break the surface, to thrust his head out and see—see if it was true. To see the reality of the vision still locked in his mind‘s eye of that glorious spire, that transcendent tower.

The lighthouse.

The Pharos.

Was it really there? A towering colossus dominating the harbor, all of Egypt, just as he had seen it?

He kicked and thrashed and ignored the raging fire burning his skull, in his blood, until a wall of pain halted his ascent. And then, fully believing it would be his final wish, he thought, Phoebe, forgive me! before his lungs died and he fell into a chasm of pain and mindlessness.

# # #

For the past ten years Caleb had been waiting for a miracle—for his father to dramatically stride back into their lives with grand stories of adventure and escape from that horrible Iraqi torture cell in the mountains, the one Caleb had seen time and again in his nightmares.

His father had been shot down in an Apache helicopter during the First Gulf War, and his body had never been recovered. It wasn‘t long before everyone had moved on—everyone but Caleb, that is—who, although only five at the time, had already started having visions, a power his mother claimed to share, despite never witnessing the same things Caleb had seen every night: his father, very much alive, very much tortured, begging, pleading for help, for acknowledgment, for salvation. Images of things done to him—wooden shards under his fingernails, wires attached to the place between his legs—would wake Caleb screaming. He‘d reach for the pencil and pad of paper he kept by the bed and scramble to draw the horrific visions that lingered, clinging to him in the waking world. He‘d see . . .

. . . some kind of great enclosure, a fence or a gate, and a burning fivepointed star above it. Sometimes an eagle‘s head, flying over a sun. And his father‘s arms, bleeding from a hundred cruel cuts, reaching out, bloody fingers clasping at nothing, his voice a barely audible whisper, ―Caleb . . . Caleb . . .. And then a word he couldn‘t make out.

But instead of even the slightest acknowledgment of his remote-viewing talents, his mother had sent Caleb to therapy. That had been the beginning of his split with her. With both of them, even his sister Phoebe, to some extent. His mother had refused to believe that his dreams could be populated by such personal revelations, especially in light of their terrifying nature, so she attributed them to childhood delusions, feelings of paternal loss and grave emotional trauma.

―It‘s true!. Caleb had yelled one time when he was twelve, when it had all come to a head. Standing up to her, but only coming to her shoulder. In that moment he‘d seen a flicker of fear in her eyes. Or was it a flash of respect?

Her eyes had snapped to the drawings on his bed, and she seemed to deflate, shrinking to his level. She gripped his shoulders. ―I don‘t see those things,. she whispered, and her eyes softened and seemed to implore, and neither should you.

Tears had spilled down Caleb‘s cheeks as he tried to pull away from her. He wanted to shout that she was wasting her talents by drawing stupid old buildings and ancient shipwrecks. Those things didn‘t matter. And the people in her socalled .psychic‘ group, the members of the Morpheus Initiative, who came by the house to sit with her and go into their trances and talk to the spirits or whatever— they were leeches and imposters. And so was she.

How could she have any real power? How could she be a true remote viewer if she couldn‘t even perceive what Caleb, a child, had seen so clearly, if she couldn‘t tell that her husband was crying out in pain, a prisoner forgotten by his country, and worse, by his own family? No, instead, his own wife had chosen to spend her time with strangers, helping them find useless old artifacts or sunken wrecks.

Caleb had pushed her away and run out the door. He raced along Sodus Bay in a cool November rain, ran past that decrepit lightship he and Phoebe had affectionately named Old Rusty. He ran until he was too tired to keep running. And then, when he had spent his anger, he turned back and walked to the entrance of their own lighthouse—the historic landmark his family had managed for two generations–and climbed the narrow metal stairs to the very top, where he sat beneath the old burned-out light, the great lamp that had been decommissioned just after his father‘s disappearance.

Hugging his knees, he‘d stared out over Sodus Bay until the sun finally burrowed beneath the horizon and hid itself for another night.

And now, all these years later, in a rush of frothing bubbles, Caleb burst from the depths of Alexandria‘s Eastern Harbor, expelling a lungful of acrid water, coughing as the other divers rushed him to the waiting yacht. He briefly regained consciousness and gasped when he perceived the grand lighthouse as it stood over two thousand years ago, leaning over as if to inspect his condition for itself. And at the very top, at the apex, Caleb imagined he could see someone gripping the railing and peering over the side, a man who looked, not surprisingly, like his father.

2

At the first bend on the promontory, just above a jumble of boulders and red stone rocks rising out of the sea, a man stood, watching. He wore a black tie and Ray-Ban sunglasses. His hair, trimmed short, had gray streaks that flecked his temples, matching the color of his just-pressed Armani suit. He held a paper bag full of stale bread crumbs, handfuls of which he tossed absently into the frothing sea while he stole glances at the scene in the harbor.

―It‘s happening,. he said into the wind. Then he cocked his head, listening to the answer returned to a tiny plastic receiver in his left ear. He tossed a few more crumbs out to birds that warily kept their distance.

―Yes, I‘m sure,. he said. ―The young professor from Columbia. They just pulled him out of the harbor. Probably ascended too fast . . . No, Waxman‘s yacht is right there, and my guess is he‘ll have Caleb in the recompression chamber in minutes . .

. If you recall, when we learned Crowe would be diving, a few us felt this possibility was not unexpected, yet our warnings were overruled.. The man paused, listening, then shook his head. ―No. I can‘t get closer, not without risk..

Another handful of bread crumbs launched into the wind blew back onto his starched pants and his polished leather shoes. ―Yes, we have a microphone on the yacht as ordered. Fortunately, it‘s in the same room with the hyperbaric oxygen

chamber.. He made a scowling face. ―Well, at least we did that right.. He nodded, coughed and then tossed the bag, crumbs and all, into the sea. ―All right. I‘ll wait here and listen in, but I won‘t risk exposure. If Crowe has that kind of talent, and he happens to sense something . . ..

The wind kicked up and whipped his jacket open, flinging his tie over his shoulder. Head down, he walked behind two tourists snapping pictures. He opened a pack of cigarettes and spent some time and difficulty lighting one as he walked toward the fortress.

He switched the channel on his earphone‘s receiver, and while he waited for the sounds from the boat, he kicked at a rock, sending it off the edge and into the sea. He walked along the breakwater stones toward the vacant citadel, pretending to admire its immense sandstone walls, its grand colonnades, gates and towers. As if this decrepit hovel could compare with the Pharos.

He risked a backward glance. The activity on the yacht continued, with the other divers surfacing, climbing up to check on their team member. All aboard, he mused, smiling as he adjusted his glasses. Then he tapped his ear, increasing the volume. He listened, hearing the tension in their voices, the conflict between the members of the Morpheus Initiative and their leader, George Waxman. Conflict is good, he thought. Might even be in our best interest to get them working at odds, coming at this from different angles. God knew it was going to be hard enough as it was.

For two thousand years the Keepers had waited, but patience was running thin. He and his fellow Keepers were convinced that the time for passivity had long since passed. A combination of dedicated research and luck had finally led them to the Key. And now, knowing it was only a matter of time—time measured in years, not centuries—plans were set in motion.

The Key.

Several reliable sources had confirmed that it was close: one of the members of the Morpheus Initiative had it. Now, it was only a matter of finding out which one and answering the larger question of determining if whoever had it even knew what it was.

He turned and looked out across the sea, his gaze sweeping the harbor like a lighthouse beacon. Two millennia. Indeed, patience was running out. But still, they had to be careful.

The Pharos protects itself.

Read the rest of The Pharos Objective

Visit David Sakmyster at:

© 2010 David Sakmyster. All rights reserved.
Presented with permission.
Published by Deviation Books (USA) an imprint of Variance LLC.
www.variancepublishing.com 


Books and Video

The Pharos Objective (Paperback)
by David Sakmyster

Driven by visions of his dead father, Professor Caleb Crowe reluctantly joins the Morpheus Initiative, a team of remote-viewing archaeologists determined to locate the remains of the seventh Wonder of the Ancient World—the Pharos Lighthouse—beneath which the legendary treasure of Alexander the Great is rumored to be hidden.
Crowe’s quest spans two thousand years of visionary history that connects the ashes of Herculaneum and the lost Library of Alexandria with a secret government program and ancient society called The Keepers.
To discover a threshold guarded by deadly traps and forgotten prophecies is one thing, but facing the truth about himself is something else altogether.

From the Author
The idea for this novel came from two intriguing sources. The first was a real life scientific experiment in the late seventies that used psychics to remote-view the location of Cleopatra's palace and other mysteries in Alexandria. The second was my research into the Pharos Lighthosue, specifically some early sources stating that there were diabolical traps under the foundation that protected a great treasure - possibly the lost hoard of Alexander the Great. The idea to synthesize these two elements led to this novel - and the sequels, the first of which concerns the search for Genghis Khan's lost tomb...

The Pharos Objective (Kindle Edition)


Worth a Look

Twilight of the Fifth Sun [Paperback]
by David Sakmyster

A near-death experience unlocks a hidden pwer... and sets a prophecy in motion.

A journalist recovers from a vicious attack on her life. Returning from the brink of death, Rebecca gains the ability to see the ghosts and spirits found all around us. This power brings her to the defense of a boy with the miraculous ability to free the earthbound souls.

This child is hunted by the ghost of the most blood-thirsty ruler in Aztec history-an evil power driven by an ancient prophecy to conquer both the living and the dead and to bring about the end of our age. Twilight of the Fifth Sun

With a cast of complex and entertaining characters, the story races to a furious climax atop the pryamids of an ancient Mayan city, where the battle for the salvation of the world will be waged.
 


NEW

The sequel to ‘Pharos’ just came out.  In THE MONGOL OBJECTIVE, the team of psychic archaeologists are on the hunt for Genghis Khan’s resting place, and again they’re caught up in ancient mysteries and mystical artifacts…

After a mystical Egyptian artifact is stolen by a renegade member of the Morpheus Initiative, Caleb Crowe and his team of psychics must use all their abilities to prevent the release of its catastrophic power. But first, they must survive the defenses of a subterranean mausoleum belonging to the world's greatest conqueror. Genghis Khan.

Praise for The Morpheus Initiative Series:

"David Sakymyster combines expertly researched historical mysteries with compelling modern characters, intriguing plot twists, and breathless pacing.
His archeologist heroes seek not just legendary secrets, but the secrets within themselves."
-- William Dietrich, author of BLOOD OF THE REICH

"… Indiana Jones meets the X-Files -- an archaeologist adventurer with psychic powers of remote viewing who can see the past, ancient treasures, historical mysteries, action and adventure that crosses the world, and a damned good story."
-- Kevin J. Anderson, #1 international bestselling author of THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

"This is a book I wish I'd written - great premise - great imagination!"
-- M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of THE REINCARNATIONIST and THE MEMORIST

"A classic good vs. evil story, a novel that kept me turning pages far into the night."
-- Nina M. Osier, author of 2005 EPPIE science fiction winner REGS and the HIGH PLACES trilogy


Links

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  • World Mysteries - Ancient Wisdom

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