Guest Art Courtesy of Mogodore J. Bivouac
“When two tribes go to war, a point is all you can score”
As he sat in the British consulate, waiting patiently for the military attaché, Fred wished he had stayed in Macedonia with the mysterium. They could have fought off the initial advance of Biscia’s men until they had enough time to get reinforcements from Greece. But in the end, Dr. Henry Jones was right. They had no choice except for a hasty retreat. Given the stakes, however, Fred would have rather sacrificed himself to save his country.
A small, squat elderly man with bandy legs came out of the consular-general’s office in Athens and shook Henry’s hand. “Dr. Jones, good to see you again,” he said, excitedly shaking the man’s hand.
“Major Portsmythe, it is good to see you again in Greece,” Henry laughed. “Any luck finding those Greek legends like the centaur, gorgon and
Portsmythe rubbed his monocle with a handkerchief. “No, no, not yet,” he said, slightly irritated. “But I know they exist and I’ll have my proof for the Royal Archaeological Society by the end of the year, unless this blasted war persists.”
“Speaking of the war,” Indiana motioned to catch Portsmythe’s attention. “We have a serious situation to the North….”
“You’re telling me!” Portsmythe growled. “First the Yugos jump the gun on us and engaged in a military coup
before we’re ready to support them, then the Germans and Italians carve the country up. Now they’re in a right good position to push us out of Greece and chase us all the way to Crete! If they do that, we won’t have a base left on the European mainland except for Gibraltar!”
Henry moved toward his old friend and clapped him on the shoulder. “I know times are tough here,” he said in a friendly tone. “But we need your help on something more important than all the British bases in Greece.”
“Can’t see what’s more important than losing here,” Portsmythe gruffly stated. “Today it’ll be Greece. Tomorrow, it’ll be the Suez Canal.”
“We’re talking about the Germans and Italians capturing a dangerous weapon which could be used against us and your forces,” Fred insisted.
Portsmythe shook his head. “Every German weapon is a dangerous one these days. Can’t see why one is worse than another.”
Velma wagged her finger scoldingly at the British officer. “Major Portsmythe, we’re talking about the Germans discovering a weapon that could destroy an entire city with a single bomb.”
Major Portsmythe threw up his hands, shielding his eyes from the bespectacled archaeologist, spun on a heel, and turned to walk away. “I’ve heard enough theories about this so-called ‘atomic bomb’ to last me a lifetime. Good day to all of you!” He quickened his pace towards the door.
“Well, it, like, blew up Atlantis,” Shaggy offered half-heartedly.
The short British military attaché stopped suddenly, as if his feet grew roots at the spot. “My dear boy, did you say ‘Atlantis?’” he said.
Portsmythe turned around. “Your English diction is terrible young lad, but you’ve definitely got my attention!”
Henry turned and winked at Shaggy, whispering “Good thinking.” He was met with a vacant expression, indicating that the words had more to do with luck than deduction. “Whatever, dude.”
“…you see, Atlantis is my hobby!” said the British officer, evidently giddy as a schoolboy. “I always wondered if there was more to the Thera legend than meets the eye. Do tell me more!”
“It was not a volcano that destroyed Atlantis, but a special element called mysterium…” Henry began.
“The Greeks used it in limited amounts in their wars with the Persians,” Henry continued, noting the rapt expression held by the attaché. It helped Alexander the Great on his mighty conquests.”
“Do go on!” Portsmythe begged.
Indiana picked up the story. “We tracked it to a Roman General named Publius, who hid it in a field outside a monastery in Macedonia.”
“Now the Italian fascists led by a guy named Biscia have captured that field. It’ll only be a matter of time before they get the mysterium and use it against us,” Fred said, hoping to make the case for action.
“So you see, to avoid having London share the same fate as Atlantis, we’ll need your help,” Velma added.
“Just tell me what you need, my lady,” Major Portsmythe said, bowing. “My resources are at your disposal.”
“We only need one small favor…..” Henry began.
* * *
Biscia knew what the smell of victory was like. The freshly turned sod, the sweat of hard labor, and the something from an aura of excitement all indicated success was near. He had smelled it on numerous occasions as key Roman artifacts were unearthed. Now, he would lay his hands on the most powerful element in the world.
Verona put her hand on his shoulder. “Told you we’d find it in this field, papa.”
He put his arm around her. “Verona, what would I do without you?”
“Still be searching that musty monastery, I suspect,” she said in a snide tone. “Good thing I had a hunch about Publius and his little female friend.”
“You’re simply brilliant!”
“You’re only saying it because it’s true,” she responded, sporting a wicked grin.
Graffanino ran toward them. “It is in the field, as you thought! All we need is the equipment to fully excavate it!” He ran back to the others excitedly shouting as they turned over more dirt.
Biscia turned to his daughter. “Verona, everyone has let me down in the search for mysterium but you. I need you to go back to Ohrid, buy several large vehicles that can help us dig this up, and return here by nightfall.”
“And miss out on the great discovery?” she pouted.
He sighed. “Graffanino couldn’t help me catch the Americans at the docks. Mario led me in the wrong direction to the Dalmatian coast. Even Hitler’s planes failed to finish them off. Only you can get the job done.”
“Yes father,” she said with less affection and more neutrality in her response. “But at least let me help with synthesizing it.”
“That I promise,” he said, hugging her.
As Verona departed, Biscia walked to the center of the field. He sought to savor his moment of triumph. Then he thought about impact of his discovery. He was now in possession of an element which made him the most dangerous man in all of Europe. No, he would not share his findings with Benito Mussolini. In fact, he would have that ineffective fascist dictator deposed for his losses in Spain and Albania. He would then change the power dynamics within the Axis powers. No longer would his Italy be “second-class citizens” to the German people, he thought. And if Adolf Hitler didn’t like taking orders…well…he would find someone who would. Perhaps Heinrich Himmler would be more malleable, Biscia mused. Then he would give London a day to surrender Britain and its colonies to him or face annihilation. Russia would not even receive a day to consider Biscia’s request. He would make an example of those godless communists in Leningrad and Moscow and demonstrate his own power to the rest of the world.
He heard the shouts from his men, but he ignored them. No doubt they were excited about finding another cache of mysterium in the soil. Unlike him, they thought small, while he had more grand plans. His next step would be to humble the arrogant Americans. They would receive an ultimatum; capitulate, or watch their great city New York perish in flames. No matter that it would result in the deaths of thousands of his ethnic kindred…the ends would justify the means. Wasn’t that what Machiavelli said? That would make him,
Il Biscia, the supreme dictator of the world.
Such a world empire would need to be properly organized, he thought. He would have trusted lieutenants from each of the continents bow down before him. They would each rule their own region with brute force. Fear would keep the locals in line. He would replace these lieutenants periodically to prevent one from rising against him. An accident or charges of treason would do the trick. Machiavelli once wrote
“Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved…”
Mario’s voice floated across the field, and he saw the red-haired student running toward him. Yes, yes, even his future son-in-law would have a small part to play in the new Roman Empire. But he considered Mario to be too foolish to succeed him upon his own death. He frowned as he watched Mario wave his hands ridiculously in the air. He had been tricked, and he lacked the ruthlessness of a Machiavellian Prince. No, he would have Verona to be the new Empress in succeeding him. She was smart and had nerves of steel to keep his kingdom intact.
“What is it you fool?” snapped Biscia. “Can’t you see I’m busy planning….”
“We are under attack!” Mario yelled.
“I have doubled the guard ten minutes ago! There are no large forces nearby strong enough to penetrate our defenses,” the Italian archaeology snapped.
But Mario pointed to the sky. Lost in his daydreams of grandeur, Biscia had not heard the roaring engines of the airplane across Lake Ohrid. It had British markings. This he had not expected, but no matter. Any attack force that parachuted from the sky would be easily cut down by his ground forces. Besides, he saw two soldiers head for the truck holding the hand-held antiaircraft missiles. He doubted the enemy would even have a chance to jump before his men blasted the plane out of the sky.
The cowardly spy frantically tugged on Biscia’s arm, earning him a backhanded slap across his cheek from his future father-in-law. “I ought to….” he stopped in mid-sentence as other men began to point and scream. He glanced back in time to see a single bomb release from the British Bristol Blenheim plane and head straight for the field. What did they think they were doing? Then it hit him; the British and their American allies had not come back to retake the mysterium, but to destroy it in order to prevent it falling into enemy hands. As the bomb whistled toward his position, Biscia saw the remnants of his new Roman Empire fall before his eyes.
Mario howled, as if in pain, and fell to his knees. Other Italians hit the ground in a futile attempt at protection. Their leader simply stood watching them, unable to move.
Now he would never be crowned Caesar Biscia.
* * *
The few Macedonians on boats across Lake Ohrid saw a plane overhead, followed by a tremendous explosion that knocked them from their crafts. A column of flame was all that remained of the Monastery Sveti Gaius and the nearby field. Years later, these fishermen would tell their sons and daughters that a small volcano erupted near the shores of Lake Ohrid, but these children would never find evidence of a new mountain, just an old crater.
ART BY JREB
Verona, who had been traveling on a motorcycle with a sidecar holding an Italian officer slammed on her brakes at the sound of the explosion, nearly crashing into a tree. She whirled around to witness the fiery column that undoubtedly consumed the entire group. While the officer fell to his knees and wept, she cast a steely stare at what would be the final resting place of the father she adored, his helper Graffanino, who had been like an uncle to her, and her future husband. Yet she remembered a quote from Machiavelli, whom her father was fond of reading. It said
“He who, blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with greatest loss…”
While the useless officer wailed, she thought about how it happened. It had to be those Americans. She found evidence that Velma and others had discovered the answers in the Monastery crypt before them. Only they could have sent the plane to the nearby field. She made a silent promise: Velma Dinkley, I will get even with you if it is the last thing I ever do. I will make you pay tomorrow for my losses today.
* * *
While Verona made her silent promise by the shores of Lake Ohrid, there were celebrations in the consular office upon the arrival of the British Bristol Blenheim bomber. Henry, Fred, and Portsmythe toasted their success in Macedonia. Daphne joined Indiana for a slow dance as Shaggy and Scooby raided the food table. Only Velma chose not to participate in the celebrations, spending a quiet moment with her colleague, Lysander Demos.
“I’m sorry we had to destroy the mysterium,” she said in an apologetic tone.
The Greek said nothing for a few moments. The he began to reply “You know something? “It was the wrong thing to do.”
“It was wrong of us, the Sons of Aristotle, to spend so much time trying to keep the element a secret,” Lysander went on, correcting her. “The great philosopher always regretted letting Alexander in on the secret. He died, wishing he had disposed of the mysterium. That element only had one purpose…to kill and destroy. There was no point to keeping it around for so many years. Our group should have located it and made sure it never existed, rather than preventing anyone from finding it.”
“You know,” he continued. “Once you develop a terrible weapon, it is hard to pretend that it never existed. It is like putting the genie back in a bottle once you open it up and learn of its great power. But now, we have a chance to make the world right again. For the first time since Atlantis, the world will not have to fear such a destructive element ever being turned into a deadly weapon.
“Say Professor Demos, you are a man of peace!” Velma beamed.
He shook his head. “Only a man of reason….which is what a ‘Son of Aristotle’ should be.’”
* * *
As the small, gentle waves of the Mediterranean emptied against the Egyptian shoreline, a beautiful sunset provided a panoramic array of colors to add to the wonderful night. While Shaggy and Scooby remained in Cairo to raid the marketplace, Fred, Velma and Daphne stared out into the fleeting light of the day.
Velma was thinking about her intellectual discussion with Lysander Demos. They had prevented the use of one deadly weapon, but other means of destruction were used by a vengeful Germany against the people of Greece. Their group had just enough time to slip aboard the Liberian steamer from Athens, headed for the Suez Canal, while the British and their Greek allies fought a hopeless defense. She said a silent prayer that Lysander would survive.
Fred thought of their recent European mission, and what he would say to OSS General “Wild Bill” Donovan. On one hand, they had prevented an enemy from gaining access to a deadly weapon. On the other hand, they failed to retrieve a key weapon that could help them in their struggle with a powerful opponent. Had he let down his country? Would Donovan still consider him for missions? Only time would tell.
As melancholy as Velma and Fred’s thoughts were, it was nothing compared to what Daphne was going through, and she wailed to anyone who would listen. “That scoundrel…leading me on like that! Why didn’t he mention this ‘Marion Ravenwood’ until last night? I’ll bet she’s a completely horrid drunk who has Indy wrapped around her little finger…oh, I’m such a fool!” she sobbed.
||Fred was torn. On one hand, he wanted to take Daphne in his arms and let her know his true feelings for her, but it didn’t seem like such a good idea now with her sobbing, especially after she had just been dumped. On the other hand, standing her trying to ignore her pain didn’t seem like it was helping any better. He opted for the compromise and put his hand around her shoulders…
Velma took a step toward her friend, as if to comfort her, but stopped at the sight of Fred putting an arm around Daphne. She didn’t respond at first, but continued sobbing audibly. Velma bit her lip in jealousy. She thought things were over between Daphne and Fred, and that her redheaded pal was more interested in Indiana Jones. But the truth be told, she was more wrapped up in solving the mystery than taking advantage of Daphne’s decision to flirt with ‘Indy’ and ignore Fred. Now that she had time to think, Fred was trying to win Daphne back. It just wasn’t fair! Hadn’t Daphne proven herself flighty this trip with her affair with Indiana? But Daphne was her friend and all that Velma cared about was her friend feeling better.
Fred gave the trembling girl a hug. “Listen, for what it’s worth, I thought you two made a great co-… I mean I thought things would wor-… I mean, I, uh, Daphne… I’m sorry.”
Daphne didn’t return his hug, but gazed up at him with reddening eyes and responded “Thanks for being a friend, even if I wasn’t so nice to you on the trip.” She then stepped away from Fred and hugged Velma. “Vel-… I’m sorry I’ve been so wrapped up in my breakup with Indy that I forgot to let you know I hope that Professor Demos makes it out of Greece alive.”
Velma forgot her prior hostility toward Daphne and returned the embrace. “Apology accepted.”
Fred put his arm around the two. “Hey, let’s get back to the Cairo, pick up Shaggy and Scooby, and get back with Donovan before we head for home.”
* * *
Meanwhile, at the Cairo base, Donovan handed General Nessmeyer a pair of instruments. “Will you see that these are placed in the diplomatic pouch?” the OSS Director asked.
“Sure…what are they?” Nessmeyer ventured.
“Professor Dinkley used these to test the soil in the field near the monastery,” Donovan replied.
“But they’re empty!”
“I know, but there may be enough particles of mysterium left for our scientists in the weapons division to use,” Donovan continued. “After all, that top secret ‘Manhattan Project’ is supposed to begin work on something that will make us the most powerful nation in the world.”
* * *
While Donovan and Nessmeyer were scheming how to use Velma’s discover to make the United States stronger, a shadow slipped away from the base. It streaked across the nighttime desert and made its way to one of the vehicles. The German High Command needed to learn what happened in the mission, and what was likely to come. The spy would also seek greater compensation for keeping watch over the activities of the Americans. Soon, a greater reward would follow.
* * *
As the jeep rolled back to the base across the Egyptian desert, Velma broke her silence. “Uh, guys, I’ve been thinking…”
“When haven’t you been thinking?” interrupted Daphne, earning laughs from all, including the bespectacled archaeologist.
“Seriously guys,” Velma continued. “If you think about it, we’ve helped solve one of the oldest mysteries in the world. For years, people assumed that Atlantis was either a myth or destroyed by Thera, but now we know that mysterium played a role in its disappearance!”
“What are you saying, Velma?” Fred asked, more interested than impatient.
“We could, kind of go into business…solving mysteries,” she replied.
“That’s a great idea!” Shaggy began. “I’d love to solve the mystery of ‘Bigfoot’ and the Yeti.” Normally, Velma would have scolded the young graduate student over his dissertation topic, but after their European adventure, the idea didn’t seem so ridiculous.
“My relatives have a Scottish castle up by Loch Ness,” offered Daphne. “We could investigate that monster.”
“Yeah,” Fred added. “And we could see why all of those ships and planes are disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle.”
“That settles it!” Velma beamed. “We’ll all study and reveal the mysteries of the world.” She started frantically scribbling notes. “But we’ll need a name.”
“How about ‘Mystery Inc.?’” announced Fred.
* * *