I walked out of the starport and waved down a personal transport. I set my heavy bag on the other seat and sat back after telling the driver where to go. A life time ago, before I had made a name in the Space Marines I had studied to become an alien archeologist. When I walked into the small shop the Amer shopkeeper turned and hissed, “Tamerlin!”
I grinned and dropped the bag to catch him as he rushed across the shop to embrace me. I swung him around and set him down on his feet, “it has been awhile Hess.”
He turned and waved around the shop, “my shop is yours.”
I clapped his shoulder, “I am going out to look for Amerish.”
Hess turned to look at me, “Amerish is lost.”
I nodded, “that is what everyone thinks. I spent a few months on Rish studying the old temples.”
He looked into my face, “we do not worship anymore.”
I shook him, “I know my friend but your people once did.”
I looked around the shop, “did you get a large crate?”
Hess turned, “yesss. I was going to open it when I saw your Glyph.”
I looked towards the front of the shop as the door opened and two large furred Erusiods walked in. I absently used my foot to push my bag aside. Hess bowed, “I am sorry gently beings but I am just closing.”
The larger greyish one growled, “permanently.”
Hess hissed and seemed to shift away from me. I shook my head, “I think you should reconsider and leave before you are damaged.”
The younger Erusiod moved towards me and reached out. I moved to one side as I brushed his arm aside. I turned and kicked across to shatter his far knee and spun as the other one roared and rushed. I dropped onto my back and let the rushing Erusiod hit my cocked legs. My legs were slammed back and I grunted as the bearish being reached for me.
I rolled back as I kicked out and it went over me and I went with it. I came down straddling its chest and struck down into its throat. The other Erusiod screamed as Hess hit it with a shock stick. I rolled to the side and came to my feet as the larger one thrashed around choking. I kicked its leg, “calm down. I did not hit you hard enough to kill.”
It was a minute before it growled and started to move. I shook my head and snapped a kick down and out. The being roared as my kick broke its wrist. Hess hit it with his shock stick before dancing back. The other one was curled around itself as his body tried to recover from the induced trauma the stick had caused. A moment later several Amer males rushed into the shop and Hess turned to talk to them.
I relaxed and waited as they moved forward to grab the two Erusiods and pull them out. I moved over and bent to grab my bag, “my crate Hess?”
He grinned and I smiled even though the rows of sharp teeth always made me nervous. He turned to the back and gestured for me to follow. The crate was sitting beside a large back door in a room that was semi dark and cave like. I checked it before breaking the seal and opening it. I pulled out the large bore rail pistol and the thigh holster. I checked it carefully as always and then put the belt and holster on.
I pulled out the long energy knife before placing it on my left thigh. Next was the short elegant looking rifle. I checked it before reaching into the crate for the large pack. I attached the rifle to the pack before standing, “thanks Hess. May your nest hold and keep your eggs safe.”
He bowed, “hunt well Tamerlin.”
I slipped the pack over one shoulder before leaving. I took another personal transport and rented a small sturdy bush hover jeep. Most of the planet was overgrown jungle with scattered ruins to show where a once powerful race had once lived. I knew just as every alien archeologist knew that their empire had died over a civil war about hatching practices.
It took a month of traveling to reach what had been a huge city. Not much showed above ground but low crumbled stone buildings. I was not worried about what was above ground even though all of the experts said that was where everything was. I carefully drove through tall stone walls and into a seemingly empty area. This was the exact center of the city.
Other archeologist had been here and said there was nothing that told them the name of the city. Not far away was several intricate buildings that stretched into the sky. I knew they were call the singing towers and somehow still had power signatures, even after five thousand years.
If they followed the pattern I had seen on Rish they might be the royal quarters or the palace. I looked around carefully before pulling the rifle off the pack and putting the pack on. I turned at the rustle of under brush and lifted the rifle in time to kill a huge rushing king lizard. They were a five meters long and two wide with a mouth full of what looked like sharks teeth.
These had once been pets and now they were one of the most dangerous creatures on Amer. It thrashed around and convulsed as it died. I pulled out several large gourds filled with what archeologists call plasma juice. It was from the sap of a pungent tree and was extremely flammable. It burned at almost three thousand degrees but took extreme heat to light.
I shouldered the straps and started moving towards the center of the walled in area. I was very careful and had to move around several deadly snakes or seeming snakes. When I reached the area I wanted, I began to sprinkle the plasma juice around. I covered a wide area before pulling a flare from my pack. I moved back as I pulled the starter and tossed the flare.
At first nothing happened and I heard movement behind me. Another king lizard came out just as the plasma juice ignited and the whole area exploded in flame. There is not many fires in a thick jungle like this one but every animal feared fire and the huge lizard was no exception. It spun and fled as the flames leaped higher and the heat reached out.
I continued to move back as everything around where I had poured the plasma juice was reduced to ash. When the fire finally died I moved forward and started brushing several millennium of dirt away. It took several hours before I had a huge circle of stones with what looked like a square in the center. I pulled four tiny sonic charges from my pack and placed them on each corner.
I moved back into the jungle and waited. A few minutes later a shattering explosion rippled through the jungle and quieted everything. I walked back to the circle of stone and looked down a stairway littered with broken stones. I carefully moved over the shattered stones, (breaking a bone here could be fatal.) Once I was clear I pulled a head band out of my pack, it had a tiny but powerful light on the front.
I put it on and adjusted the light before moving down the stairs. When I stepped off the stairs I was surprised. Indirect lighting sprang up and a hissing voice demanded my name and family clan. I did not even have to think as I hissed, “Tamerlin Storm!”
There was a whirring sounds as I looked around the huge empty chamber, “no such name exists!”
I smiled, “your data is flawed and out of date.”
I continued to stand, I knew Amer traps were almost always deadly. It was a minute before a wall opened across the chamber, “enter to speak with a priest.”
I looked at the floor careful as I started across the room. A hissing sound from one corner had me turning and lifting my rifle. A huge tomb snake came through a hole close to the ceiling. Besides being ten meters long they were also very poisonous. This one was maybe halfway grown and I aimed carefully before squeezing the trigger. The room brightened and the far wall began to close.
The snake was wrapping coils around itself as I ran towards the wall. I squeezed through at the last second and the smaller anti chamber brightened to a dim glow, “remain here until a priest resolves the issue.”
I looked around at the comfortable room. There were soft cushions in one corner and a warming shelf along the other wall. Freshly scent air drifting into the room as I crossed to a corner where a fountain with fresh water was. I took a sip before starting to carefully check each wall. Across from where I had entered was a base relief of an Amer nest.
It almost seemed alive and I jerked when an egg cracked. Nothing happened and I reached out to touch the carving. The egg rocked and another beside it started to rock with it. I looked at the relief carefully and above and below were secondary nests. All of the eggs were rocking and would stop if I lifted my finger. When one egg cracked and a tiny Amer fell out I was thinking ahead.
I used another finger to touch it and slide it up the wall and into the single upper nest. As each of the other eggs hatched I slid the hatchling down into a vacant nest. After the last one was in the nest there was a crack and the wall beside the relief silently opened. I moved quickly and walked through the opening. I found myself on a sloping ramp and started down as I began carefully checking for traps.
At the bottom of the ramp was a huge round room with a dozen openings. I looked around the space, it was lit dimly by stones in the wall that glowed. I used the head light to look at everything and check for traps. The tunnel I decided on had an ancient symbol I recognized from the Rish temple. I stopped after a dozen steps to see most of the floor missing.
I glanced down and saw an underground river with small carnivorous lizards climbing the walls. These had once been a food source for the Amer. I sighed and looked at the empty space where the hall had been. I shifted and moved to the side to step out onto a narrow ledge and inch forward. A few feet in I leaped out and landed on what looked like a column. I leaped again and landed on a small area on top of another column.
I glanced down to see the small lizards leaping. Most fell down into the moving water but a few managed to reach the column I had just jumped from. I took two running steps and jumped to the other wall. I landed on another narrow ledge and one of the two stones I landed on broke away and fell. I balanced on the other foot before shifting and side stepping for several feet.
I carefully turned and checked down the hall before leaping out onto another standing column. I heard the crack from below and stood still looking forward. I crouched and leaped again and landed on one foot on top of another column as the last began to fall. I did not pause or hesitate and jumped again towards a small platform. I moved carefully as I crossed to the other side and looked out.
I backed up and took several running steps before jumping and landed on a small ledge. I slowly worked sideways until I stepped onto the solid floor of the hall. I moved slowly and continued to check for traps. The room I walked into was huge, with three hallways leading out. In the very center was three cylinders and a pedestal. I slowly crossed to the pedestal and looked at the dimly lit symbols.
The Amer language had shifted a great deal over the millennium since this place had been abandoned. I touched a symbol for life and looked up as outer shell of the three cylinders dropped into the floor. Three golden Amer stood where the cylinders had been and then opened their eyes. I was ready for almost anything when they bowed, “master.”
I blinked and lowered my rifle before looking at the symbols again. I chose one for light and the room brightened. I looked at the three hallways to see they to were brighter. I check the three and started towards the one with the symbol for creation. I looked back as the three Amer robots started following. I shook my head as I slowed to start checking the hallway carefully.
Inside and down the hall it looked like it had collapsed. I moved forward slowly and looked up at where the ceiling had collapsed and moved back quickly when it shifted and a huge tomb snake started to emerge. The snake was different, it was covered in gold scales and sparkling gems. I lifted my rifle and fired, I hesitated when the slug seemed to glance off and hit the ceiling.
I glance up and fired into the ceiling several times, there was a crack and the snake paused. I glanced at the three Amer robots when ruby beams lashed out and the stones in the ceiling shattered. I back peddled quickly as rock and dirt dropped down onto the snake. I watched and lunged forward when the huge head came out of the falling rocks.
I pulled my energy knife and plunged it into the snake behind its head before yanking it out and throwing myself back. The snakes coils where lashing out as the snake rolled and twisted. I was grabbed and pulled back quickly. I glanced back to see the Amer robots and relaxed. They released me and I stood slowly and put my knife away. I shook my head and looked at the robots.
I smiled as I thought and hissed, “do you know of a way around the blockage?”
They nodded and turned to gesture back into the huge room. They led me to the left and stopped to gesture into the next hallway. I nodded and started to step in. The robot reached out and pulled me back, “it is not safe.”
I knelt and blinked when I saw the slight difference in the floor. I looked at the robots, “can you led me through?”
One nodded and turned to moved to the center of the hallway before looking at me, “stay behind me.”
I moved over behind him as the other two robots followed me. Our way down the hall twisted and turned until a hundred meters down the hall the robot turned and touched the left wall. A seam appeared and then spilt and opened. I moved around the robot and used my light to look into what appeared to be a service area. I walked in and crossed to a narrow space that seemed to extend into the dark.
The robot followed me and hesitated before entering, “be careful master, there are... obstacles.”
I glanced at him just as a pointed rod shot across the narrow isle. It was head high and pulled back as I watched. I looked at the size of the robot and realized the rod would pass over its head. I grinned and started timing the rod, “how many of these are there?”
I nodded as the rod shot out again and moved into the space and waited. When it pulled back I moved passed the hole it had come from and slid forward until I saw another hole. The robot moved with me and seemed calm and patient, as if they were dealing with something simple. When I slid out into another service area I crossed to the other wall, “is there another door?”
The robot moved past me to touch a spot lower on the wall. Like before the wall split and slid apart. I looked through the spilt and glanced to the left to see the collapsed hallway. I looked at the robot, “are there any traps in this hallway?”
It shook its head, “not in the hallway. We do not know what is beyond.”
I looked at it before stepping out and starting down the hall. The hallway stretched out for almost a mile before coming to another large room. I stood at the entrance looking out and shook my head. There were several rings in the floor and between them the floor dropped away. I moved to glance down into a body of slow moving water. In the very center of the huge room was a large cylinder on a platform.
Slowly moving around the room above each of the rings were floating spheres. I watched them for several minutes. I had only seen one before and that one was inert and in a stasis display. These were guarding the central platform. I stepped out onto the narrow walk and the room shimmered before the light tinted red. The five floating spheres moved to where the narrow walk intersected their ring.
I hesitated before pulling out the wrist ring I had worn inside my shirt for the last few years. It was a gift from Hess after I had killed several pirates from a rogue world and then killed a rare twenty meter rock snake with only my energy knife. It had killed the other Amer and was ready to kill him when I arrived. I slipped it onto my wrist and moved forward with the three robots following. As I came closer to the first sphere a single beam of green light shot out to hit the bracelet.
The sphere shimmered and tiny blue lights appeared around its middle. I moved closer but it did not do anything. I slipped around it and glanced down to see more of the small carnivorous lizard climbing towards me. I knelt to look at the floor plates and reached out to feel the slightly raised edge of one. I smiled and glanced at the three robots, “avoid this tile.”
I carefully stepped around the tile and crossed to the narrow walk leading to the next ring. I walked across slowly and the sphere turned to follow the golden robots. I shook my head at the procession following after me. The next sphere did the same thing as the first and I wait until the tiny blue lights came on before moving closer.
I glanced back as the lizards came over the edge of the first ring. I knelt and looked at the floor plates on the next ring and bent to look closer before I saw the two tiles that were different. I stood and gestured to the two tiles, “these two are traps.”
I had to move to one side and knelt to check the tiles before starting to walk to the left. The trapped tiles blocked the narrow walk to the next ring but there were three more I might be able to use. When I reached the next tiles I looked back and it was to see the second sphere following the first. I shook my head before walking out and crossing on the walk.
The spheres had moved to parallel me so the third sphere was waiting. After it checked the bracelet I knelt again to check for trapped tiles. After I saw the tiles that were what I considered triggers I moved onto the ring. This time I had to go to the right and when I reached the next walk way I found more traps so I had to keep going. The next was trapped too but the last was open and I started across.
By the time I stepped onto the center platform I had all five spheres following me. Behind them were hundreds of small lizards. I checked carefully before walking to the short pedestal in front of me. It only had two symbols on it and I took a minute to study them. I glanced at the large cylinder and touched the symbol for life or to life I was not sure which.
There was a humming sound as the cylinder dropped through the floor and I saw several small nests. The center one held four eggs and had a glow surrounding it. I recognized the glow as a stasis field before it disappeared. The eggs began to rock and I shook my head as I moved closer. One of the other nests was raised a little higher than the others.
I looked at the robots, “catch any of the small lizards that come onto this platform.”
They turned and moved to the walk way as I moved to the central nest with the eggs. I pulled out my sat comm and hoped it would work, “Hess Ser Amer.”
There was a little static but a minute later, “Tamerlin?”
I grinned, “Hess my friend. I am in serious need of your help.”
He sighed, “how may I assist?”
I looked at the eggs and reached for one as it cracked, “I know you lost your mate and will not take another. I found Amerish but there is...well, there was a stasis field around the royal Amer nest...”
I grabbed the small Amer as it broke out of the egg and fell to the nest. I moved quickly to the raised nest and set it down, “the field shut down and the eggs are hatching. Can I feed them the Cray lizards?”
Hess hissed, “the eggs are alive?”
I laughed as I snatched my hand back, “one has hatched and it will not be long before the others do to.”
I gestured to the robot moving to me with several struggling lizards. Hess took a breath, “yes, use the lizards to feed the young. I will use a flyer to come to your signal.”
I nodded to the nest, “put them in the nest.”
I moved back to the other eggs as another one cracked, “be careful my friend.”
Hess laughed, “I am not the one that should worry.”
The other robots were bringing more lizards as another egg broke in half and a screaming Amer emerged. I grabbed him and moved him to an empty nest before letting a robot drop a lizard in with it. I was busy watching and moving back and forth but saw the far walls drop into the floor. After each hatchling was put into the nest and they had eaten their fill I glanced around.
There were dozens of silver robots moving through the rings catching lizards and putting them into clear containers. I removed my shirt and used a marker to mark the first born and careful wrapped her sleeping body. I did the same for its siblings (except the marker) and gestured to the three robots, “do you know a safe way out?”
One of the robots nodded and turned to walk across a walkway. I thought about the traps as I followed it and the other two followed me with the spheres floating along behind. When we reached the outer ring next to the wall all the other robots were waiting. I hesitated before continuing to follow the robot and shook my head as all the robots started following behind the floating spheres.
The robot stopped in front of a carving of Amer having a feast. I moved forward to look at it before touching a Cray Lizard and moving it to a young Amer. The wall split and slid open and I nodded to the robot. It moved forward and we walked into a huge chamber filled with metal books. I was tempted to stop and look but kept following.
After that we walked into a sloping hallway, it slowly turned and began climbing. As we approached what looked like a wall it split and slid aside. We walked into a huge room with jeweled statues. Every space on the walls had carvings and more gems. A large nest in the middle of the room held several large eggs made of brightly colored precious stones.
I carefully looked around, this was the lost temple I was looking for. I crossed to the huge open doorway and hesitated at the active force screen. Just beyond was jungle, I looked down at the robot, “can we safely go through the screen?”
It nodded and I glanced at the sleeping Amer before pulling my pistol and stepping out. I moved into the thick foliage and glanced up to see the singing towers. I turned and headed towards where I had left my vehicle. I glanced at the glowing spheres as they suddenly moved forward and surrounded me. They did not try to stop me, it was as if they were protecting me.
The crashing of brush made me stop. The spheres flared red and lifted before firing ahead and to the right. When the spheres returned to a neutral color I started moving again. A moment later I walked past a large king lizard. When I finally reached my vehicle I glanced at the sleeping babies and then at the robots. I smiled, “can you make four nests for the babies?”
They shifted and moved away into the jungle. A moment later they were back and began weaving materials the others brought to them. I watched as in moments four soft nests took shape. I separated the sleeping Amer and put one in each nest. The robots that were carrying the clear containers came to set them beside each nest.
I looked around before looking at my three golden robots, “is there anyway to clear the area so a flyer can land?”
The robots turned to look up at the singing towers and I heard a high pitched hum before lasers began scoring the whole area inside the stone walls around us. I shifted, worried they might hit us but they moved and seared the whole area except where we were. I used shirts and a blanket from my vehicle to cover the babies so the ash stayed off them.
The robots moved until they were in a layered circle around us and my vehicle. I was starting to fix myself something to eat when the babies began to wake at the same time. The lasers had stopped but there was still ash in the air. I had to move back and forth between nests as I opened containers and grabbed lizards to dump them into each nest.
Almost as soon as they were full the babies fell asleep and I was left to clean nests. Like most young, I ended up having to pick the babies up and rocking them from time to time. I barely had time to eat, let alone write down what I had found and saw. It was early morning when I heard flyers. I was rocking the baby I called Jasmine, she was the heir.
I sat up and looked around until they came into view. There were six of them and they circled before dropping to land not far from my vehicle. I glanced at one of the spheres to see it change color to a pink. Hess was first to climb out and he walked towards me with a grin, “Tamerlin, you have awakened the demons of government.”
I glanced at the other Amer that were getting out of the flyers. I looked at the sphere that floated between Hess and I as it glowed red. I stiffened, “do not move Hess!”
He stopped as I moved forward and shifted the baby in my arms. I reached out to touch the sphere as I hissed, “they are friends.”
It was a moment before it and the other spheres stopped glowing and went back to patrolling around me and the nests. I backed up, “sorry my... guardians.”
He grinned as he walked closer and went to his toes to see the baby. He frowned, “why did you mark her?”
I grinned as I turned to the other nests, “I am not you my friend and wished to make sure the first hatched was kept separate.”
“That is not our way.”
I glanced at the wide Amer that strode towards me. I smiled as I looked at Hess, “actually, according to the glyphs and other records I have found it once was. That was once the one thing that seemed to dominate your people.”
I set the baby in her nest before turning to face the small crowd of Amer, “the temple and its inner sanctum ways used your races nesting traditions as passwords to ensure safe passages.”
I looked towards the towers, “the temple is close to the foot of the towers.”
Hess shifted, “this is Amer spokesman Ras.”
I looked from Hess to the larger Amer, “so?”
Hess sighed, “if your children are from the Royal nest than they would supplant the government.”
I smiled, “they are babies Hess and ones I hope you will...”
He grinned, “oh no my friend. Traditions and history are set, you hatched them, they are yours.”
I looked at him and ignored the others, “Hess, I am human. I do not know anything about raising children let alone Amer children.”
He smiled, “I can help and advise but you are their father.”
I looked at Ras who turned away and I could swear he was laughing. I glared at Hess, “this is not funny.”
He laughed and spread his arms, “it is for me. Now I can repay you the debt I owe.”
I shook my head as I looked at the sleeping babies, “I was going to finish my study of the temple but if...”
Ras chuckled, “you must continue your work.”
I looked at him and he shrugged, “we have been without true leadership for a long time.”
I sighed and looked at Hess, “I will need a portable living cube and someone from your peoples government as an observer.”
The babies shifted and first one cried and then the others started. I sighed as I called the robots and hastily started putting lizards into nests. I glanced at Hess as he handed me lizards from the containers, “they are your relatives.”
He grinned, “but I am only a lowly shopkeeper now.”
The temple and the complex below took over five years to document and study. I taught my...(children) what I thought they needed. Including Amer history and nesting tradition which seemed to sweep the planet and then the whole race.