The next day we were ready to get started, but our only concern was that we would be out in the open and very vulnerable to another attack. Our companions thought we would not encounter them again for a while, but the rest of us were not quite so certain about that, especially with the giant warthog like creatures on a rampage. So we started out before the Professor got too anxious with our worries. He was definitely ready to go alone if we delayed any longer.
The journey didn’t take as long as we thought, even though the pace was pretty gruesome, with the Professor leading, of course. I remember the nights under the stars. They were so beautiful and bright. Even our own eyes would shine like bright yellow-green florescent lights. My own companion, Diamond, even though somewhat plane as wolves go, had eyes that were a bright blue florescent and stood out from all the rest of the wolves. The other wolves seem to give him more respect or even wait for his opinion. Later on we found out that there were other eye colors depending on the gifts that were received when the change overcame them. It seems that the butterflies were important to the transformation, but no one knew yet how it happened or who initiated it or even directed and chose the gifts for each person or creature. At first, it seemed that it was all just part of the territory, like something in the soil lingering from the radiation maybe. The wolves never questioned it themselves, but just accepted it.
I had a lot of questions in my head that were still formulating or finding a way to express them. For example, if the members of our expedition did not change significantly, other than being able to read minds, did that mean the wolves were also initially intelligent but only now able to express themselves to us through mind talk? At some point I needed to discuss this with the Professor. Why go looking for aliens, when they may be here among us masquerading as wolves. As deep as the bonding with the wolves have gone so far, I wonder how much they can really read from us, from our minds. As for ourselves, it seems that as a group we are growing stronger and more confident in using these new abilities of our minds, maybe potentials that were there all along, but never able to tap into them before. It does seem that the wolves are not able to read us when we use regular language, but they are able to discern a lot from our body language and emotions. In the long run, we were able to block our minds from anyone reading them, so that we eventually got our privacy back and more so, depending on how good we were at blocking. The Professor was the best, but that is not surprising since he highly valued his privacy. I also noticed how more alert we were and able to notice small things, especially in the environment around us. Maybe we were becoming like our wolves in using our senses from being in nature.
In the distance we could just make out a rounded top building or structure. There were neither windows nor any noticeable entrances. The Professor thought there would be no windows, but there should be a door or entrance somewhere on the structure. He kept calling it an observatory, but said it was rather small. The wolves were thinking that it was a portal or entrance to another place; in their thoughts they were thinking to another planet!
“Keep looking,” the Professor said, “it has got to be around here somewhere. “Would it have any particular shape?” I asked. “It may just blend in well with the structure,” he mentioned, “not necessarily meant to be inconspicuous, but just weathered so much that it would be hard to see from a distance. We may have to go up close and feel our way around”.
The whole structure was mainly white with lots of rust spots everywhere, but none were rusted through. Eventually after feeling our way around the ground level, the Professor finally spotted it. “There it is,” he said excitedly, “Up a few feet off the ground.” “Oh, yeah,” said Sarah, “How could we miss it? It is quite clear. How do we get up there?” “There must have been a ladder supporting a platform at one time,” he said. “Now it is definitely gone, and without it there is no way we can get up there without it.” “Maybe that was the idea,” said Sarah.
“Here, what is this?” Michael said. Seems he spotted a recessed stairway that could be pulled out, sort of like shelves or short rectangular platforms that one could pull out as they climbed up them to the door. And that is what we did, except the door was locked! “Great!” the Professor said. “Does anyone have the key?” he said half jokingly. <Actually,> Alpha offered, <you do. Just put your hand on that small pad there.> And the Professor did, even though he looked doubtful. Slowly, the old door opened outward and we moved out of the way to swing it open, and then stepped through.
It was surprisingly bright inside. The large domed roof had a long wide strip of opaque material about ten feet wide running through and dividing it in half that provided enough light, in the day time. The building was immense compared to any we had ever seen, and in the middle was built an even more surprising structure. It was hard to describe with the metal rods seeming to give it support and rigidity crisscrossing back and forth. But at the bottom was a platform holding large multiple mirrors and half way to three quarters of the way up this structure was a smaller device centered in the middle of the mirrors. The Professor said it was an observatory, but admitted that he had never seen anything like this before. He was used to smaller devices that were much different from this. It is used for observing the night sky. Surprisingly, the wolves seemed to be familiar with the structure, but also seemed uninterested. They were sniffing around the floor area, which we sensed through our mind-read, looking for something or someone.
<Professor, put your hand on this pad here,> Alpha pointed to another one similar to the one outside. He pressed his full hand against the device and suddenly the roof slowly began to open. <How did you know that?> he asked. <Have you been here before?> <Many years ago,> she answered. <As you can see, we cannot open the building ourselves.> <Then how did you get in?> the Professor pushed. <Let us say,> she reluctantly answered, <one of our many friends let us in to show us around.> Not surprisingly, she was also reluctant to say more on the topic.
By now the roof was fully opened, with not only the opaque section moved out of the way, but parts of both sides opened to a much wider opening, letting in a wonderful view of the day time sky.
The Professor looked around now to see if there was anything of interest, since nothing else was in the room except what he called the very large telescope. He said he was looking for control panels to operate the thing, but Alpha said they were elsewhere, maybe under the floor. As we looked up at the sky, we could see our butterfly friends returning via the roof, casting a shadowy cloud inside the room by their sheer number. Unfortunately, they were also followed by their enemies, the hornets. But this time we were able to deal with them and they eventually left us alone. Michael had immediately gone back to the door and tried to close it, but it would not budge. Alpha informed him that he needed to put his hand on the pad to close it again, which he did, and just in time. There was an awful stomping on the stairs that sounded like they were trying to remove them, and then came the bang, bang, bang sounds that filled the whole structure like it was a big hollow drum being pounded on.
“I was able to get a glimpse,” he said, a little frightened, “of what they looked like, but I am not sure of this kind of animal.” “What did they look like?” Sarah asked excitedly. <They had a very big body with a short horn at the end of its snout,> Michael switched to mind-talk. <Sounds like it might be a Rhino!> Sarah said. <It probably is a rhino, or rhinos,> said Diamond. <They are a very ancient animal that can grow to an immense size! They were quite rare before the Great Disaster, but have been spotted in quite large herds around the perimeter of the Forbidden Zones.> <Fortunately, they will not be able to break through that door. Besides, it opens to the outside giving it more strength,> Alpha said.
<Seems like this place was build to withstand such encounters,> offered the Professor. <And besides, from the outside the structure does not look that old.> <There are several of these structures built over all the Forbidden Zones,> Alpha pointed out. <But what they are for, may be more than what is obvious.> <I think they are portals,> the Professor challenged. <You can ask the ancient ones themselves when you meet them,> Alpha finished.
Since there was not much more that we could do here, and the Professor could not find the controls or the control room, if there was one, we decided to move on. “We have a change of plans,” Sarah stated. “Because of the strange beasts that keep confronting us, we have to take a different route, since the way we came from may lead us into their paths. Any suggestions!” “Like you said,” Michael offered, “it seems that they want us to stay away from this structure, or at least try to chase us off.” “It seems they may have kept us inside,” the Professor said, “because it would be too dangerous for us to move on.”
By now the butterflies have disappeared along with the hornets and, we guessed, the rhinos. The wolves were in agreement that we would not encounter them again, like the last time; otherwise we would have encountered them on the way. The rest of us humans were not so sure, since the wolves could easily outrun them and leave us behind. Maybe dodge them in a wooded area, but Michael said these were very big animals, quite capable of knocking down the trees. Unlike the giant warthogs, the trees could keep us safe, but from these animals? The wolves suggested that there was another pass, but through the mountains, an underground road the ancients used to get through the mountains. The Professor was very interested, because so few of them survived the Great Disaster. I guess that would be the route we would take and the wolves could lead the way.