Chapter 4: The Descent
''Homo homini lupus'.'
(Man is a wolf to man)
—Unknown, attributed to Plautus
April 25th 2008
Rose eyed the expanse of brown stone before her. Illuminated by the light of her flashlight, it stretched several feet in both directions and up into the darkness. Figures of animals and spear waving people covered much of its surface. To Rose, it all looked very much as she'd expected it would. But then, Rose wasn't exactly familiar with cave paintings and the like. As for the artwork itself, she supposed it was nice enough to look at. Historical significance aside, it wasn't terribly interesting.
Taking a breath of musty air, and then letting it out with a soft sigh, Rose turned away. As she straightened up, the knots from crouching so often unwound from her neck and shoulders.
It'd taken almost an hour's worth of walking up the narrow mountain trail to reach the cave. It was so overgrown by bushes and shrubbery that Rose had nearly walked past the small dark hole in the side of the slope. The inside of the cave was just as unimpressive as the outside, being little more than a long series of rock tunnels. More than once Rose, or someone else, had stumbled and almost fallen.
"See anything unusual?" Rose called over to Ashley and an archeologist student, who were standing several feet away, talking in low voices.
Ashley spoke first. Like Rose, her voice muffled by the surgeon's mask she wore. They'd been told they had to wear them to keep the moisture from their breath from affecting the paintings. "Best as I can tell, the paintings are made of the usual materials. But some of the art is quite unusual. Tony, you want to tell her?"
"Sure, why not?" The archeologist student, Tony, who'd lead them up here pointed his flashlight at a particular spot on the wall and illuminating an image of a four-legged creature, which stood alone admits the paintings. It was an odd image, and it might have been a bright color, like red or gold, at one point. Now it was a bright brown, faded as if some hand had tried to scrub it away.
"Well, it bears a close resemblance to a cave painting found in France in the 1920's. Now, both ours and the original are unusual as they depict a single prominent human figure in a cave painting. With that said, there are-"
A sudden yawn bubbled up through Rose's mouth, interrupting him. Her face flushed, aware of the looks everyone was giving her. Ashley looked slightly amused. The archeologist student, Tony, who'd lead them up here looked faintly scandalized.
"Sorry, I didn't sleep well last night." She'd awoken that morning with half-forgotten memories of the previous night. Rose had tried her best to recall the dream, but more and more haltingly as she realized it had escaped her grasp. Someone had been speaking to her and there was an alien gaze watching her with interest. "You were saying?"
"Um, yes. But this one's different. To begin with it's depicting of a woman, not a man. And whereas the original seemed to be a mix of a deer and a man, this one seems to be a woman and what's probably a wolf, given what we know of the local stories."
Now that he'd said it, Rose could almost see that the human face on the creature was female. There was a growing feeling, an odor of trouble. Her instincts were shouting. As they used to do long ago when she'd traveled around time and space. She shivered, even though the inside of the cavern was mild enough.
"Why's it called 'the sorcerer' anyhow?" she asked.
"Henri Breuil- that's the guy who first discovered it- believed it was a representation of a shaman or a magician."
"So this could have been a starting point for all the legends?"
"With the information Emily dug up about local legends and the historical information Hagopian gave us to look at, I'm almost certain of it. I wouldn't be surprised if the wolf-woman had something to do with the pyramid."
"Now that you mention it, something's been bugging me about that. How'd they get it down here? From the photograph we saw yesterday, it looked too big to fit through the tunnels we came in." Rose asked.
Ashley was clearly thinking this over. Turning to Tony, she asked, "Are there any other ways in?"
"Can't say for certain yet. We haven't managed to completely explore the cave and there are a few areas that look like they caved in, so I'd say that's still up in the air." After a moment, he grinned. "But it's either that or the little green men with three eyes on that wall did it."
Ashley chimed in. "Bad joke aside, that's what we were discussing. Come have a look."
Walking over, Rose saw the picture in question illuminated by the Ashley's flashlight. It was off to the side off the other paintings on an otherwise empty wall. In the middle of a scene of people hunting stood a trio of figures- which were neither little nor green. The only thing that distinguished them from the other humans was an empty circle in the middle of their foreheads.
"So what are they? Besides probably not being aliens." Rose asked, making sure to include the last bit for Ashley's sake. She'd seen quite a few aliens, but none with an eye in the middle of their foreheads. Yet.
"Best guess is that it's some sort of ceremonial marking or similar. Sorta like a Bindi."
"That's the red dot Indians have on their foreheads, yeah?" Rose questioned.
"Quite right," Tony replied. "The professor had us looking at every picture of cave art in the books. There's nothing like this."
"Well, at least it's something to look into. Who knows, we might have better luck then you have so far."
A scrabbling noise interrupted any further conversation as Emily stumbled in.
Rose frowned in confusion. In light of the unknown nature of the pyramid and in keeping with Torchwood protocol, they'd left Emily outside in order to stay in radio contact with Micah and Daniel. Both of which were still in the camp.
"Emily, what's going on?" Ashley said.
"I just got off the radio with Daniel. Torchwood London's asking to speak with Rose as soon as possible. Daniel said it didn't sound like a request either." Emily said.
Rose and Ashley shared a confused and concerned glance. But neither wanted to say too much in front of Tony.
"Did they say why?" Rose asked.
Emil shook her head. "Not as far as I know."
"Is that sort of thing normal for you people?" Tony interjected.
"Not often, but it does happen. Probably some department head being upset that they can't figure out some new toy." Rose lied. "Might as well go and see what they want this time. I'll be back in a few."
As she headed back towards the mouth of the cave, Rose could help but feel curious and slightly concerned at this development. After all, they'd informed Torchwood about what they'd found out so far the previous night. So it was odd that Torchwood would feel the need to contact them now, except for emergencies. But if that was the case, why waste what could be valuable time being secretive?
Leaving the cave, Rose gave a quick look around. Sure, they were in the middle of nowhere, but there was no sense in taking chances- just in case. All this talk of wolves and the painting in the cave was reminding her more and more of when she and the Doctor had run into that werewolf in Scotland. But no, the founding Torchwood records said the creature had been destroyed.
After a quick search revealed a total lack of possible eavesdroppers, Rose pulled an encrypted satellite phone from a shirt pocket. It'd been made by Torchwood, and operated on an entirely different frequency from regular channels. She doubted anyone would be able to pick it up if they were trying to listen in.
Rose punched the number and her identity number into the encrypted satellite phone and waited patiently for the operator to pick up.
Like its twin back at the camp with Daniel, the phones were standard issue for Torchwood teams. They provided an easy way for teams in the field to keep in contact with Torchwood. Having two of them allowed the team to split up and cover more ground. It also gave a team a second means of communicating with each other in places were radios might be temperamental. On top of it all, a second phone was useful to have if the first phone malfunctioned or was lost.
When the line picked up it was an unfamiliar voice that spoke into her ear.
"Agent Tyler, glad you could reach us so soon. I'd apologize for the short notice, but we've had something come up that requires immediate attention. What I'm about to tell you is considered Code Mauve. That means everything is strictly need-to-know information. We can't risk an intelligence leak or this getting to the media and creating complications. Even an accidental one from our own staff and support personnel."
"You don't have to remind me, I know what Code Mauve means. Now what's going on?" Rose said, trying to remain professional and not to show how startled she was.
Torchwood had always tried to keep it's aura of secretiveness intact. So not having discussions out in the open in front of civilians was normal. Of course there'd always been rumors and conspiracy theories about them. But this was different, if not almost unheard of.
What he said next hit her like a hammer blow.
"At oh-seven-hundred this morning, Looking Glass picked up an anomaly broadcasting a narrow-beam radio message requesting to arrange a meeting with Torchwood -and you in particular. Given the information they've shared with us so far, we've agreed to the meeting and they've promised to send a representative to meet with you."
The words didn't entirety make sense to Rose at first. Then understanding slammed into her and Rose almost dropped the phone as she all but quivered in dumbfounded shock. Her thoughts slowing to a crawl as reality sank in. Looking Glass was Torchwood's monitoring system of the Void.
What she'd just heard was- should have- been impossible. The man might as well have told her the Titanic had just sailed into New York harbor.
Her thoughts went back to the cold, lonely beach back at Bad Wolf bay. The Doctor had told her that traveling from one universe to another was impossible now. That both universes would collapse if anyone tried. And he'd only managed to send a message by finding the only unclosed crack in reality and burning up a star keeping it open. Just to talk to her for two minutes, before it closed forever.
"Agent Tyler, are you alright?"
"I'm fine," she answered. Her voice stretched wire-tight as she pulled it out of her throat, past a persistent, obscure ache. But she managed to keep the shake out of her voice. "You're sure this isn't some kind of trick or false alarm?"
"We wouldn't be calling you if we thought it was. Not there was much doubt when a when we tracked the signal to portal the size of a pie tin on level 40."
Rose paled and a cold chill went down her spine at the thought. If whatever race or organization these people belonged to could simply open up a passageway from their universe to this one, whenever or wherever they wanted, there would be little Torchwood could do to stop them.
"So, did this person or whoever say why they wanted to speak with me so badly?'
"You'll be briefed in full about that later. Right now, you're to start packing up as soon as possible. We've already dispatched a helicopter to take you back to London. It should be reaching your location in about two hours."
Rose almost choked on her sudden frustration at hearing him say that. How could they tell her what they had then tell her to wait? Rose closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, swallowing the anger. She wanted so very badly to demand answers, but she knew it would get her nowhere.
"And what should I tell Recon Team 12?"
"The official story is that we discovered something unusual from the Void and we want you to take a look at it."
"Understood," she said, and made herself be silent when her voice trembled on the last syllable.
She shut her eyes tight and rubbed her temples, willing her feelings away. Before letting out a long, slow breath and returning back to the depths of the cave.
Kosh voice: And so it begins...