Sam couldn’t help but feel exposed- vulnerable. Not just at the Temple of Emenanki, but in Iraq at all. The American forces were skeletal, and each and everyone entrenched in their cover. General Arif was a puppet, and the Soviets were extending their influence around the globe. Damocles wanted to make sure every corner of the world was safe for Democracy- but there was something especially strange happening in Iraq. Sam scoffed. It was hard to believe some remote third world colonial outpost could be the center of the world’s attention. No doubt that would never happen again.
Dr. Anthony DeWain walked over to Sam. All he knew was that a Federal agent was inquiring about the progress of the dig. No scholar enjoyed government interference, but today Sam’s cover was that of an official with the Smithsonian. The grant that was funding Dr. DeWain’s work would certainly encourage the archaeologist to be forthcoming. The man was in his early fifties, and his khaki shirt and shorts were sweat stained. His hands were caked with dirt and sand, and in his pocket were some brushes and tools to carefully uncover new artifacts. The dig itself had made its way well into an ancient temple. Most of the burial goods had been removed and taken to the Smithsonian months ago as part of a traveling exhibit. Dr. DeWain was no fool. He knew it was this sort of thing that paid the bills. But he didn’t have time for red tape. He brushed the sand off of his hands before shaking Sam’s hand.
“Mr. Tettleton, what a surprise. We weren’t expecting you. I appreciate your taking interest in our work.”
Sam responded to the name of his cover identity, and remembered some important tools of his training- namely not saying more than was necessary.
“My pleasure. Have you found the location of the second temple?”
Dr. DeWain sighed, unable to mask his annoyance. “We have not. The temple of Emenanki makes reference to the second Eye of Tiamat being taken to the Garden’s of Ishtomb. This was supposedly a small retreat of one of the first Babylonian Kings. The retreat was in an oasis, far into the Iraqi desert. There is no Oasis remaining these thousands of years later- we are looking for a location in the middle of the desert, and in a landscape that constantly shifts as the dunes roll with the wind. We may never find it, Mr. Tettleton.”
Sam Kiruk nodded, looking off to the southwest, shielding his eyes from the blowing sand. The sky was darkening, and Sam assumed it was just cloud cover. That much was true. But the excited voices that came next indicated far more was at work. Some workers started cheering, and pointing with glee. Others fell to their knees, found where Mecca would lie across the horizon, and began to pray. The westerners stared in all directions in disbelief. The desert air had dropped to very cool temperatures suddenly, and snow had begun to fall.