The X-Files: Ruinsby Kevin J. Anderson
In the most ambitious and exciting X-Files adventure to date, Mulder and Scully fly to the Yucatan jungle to investigate a missing team of archaelogists. Their exploration leads to a strange electronic signal coming from beneath ancient ruins -- a signal aimed upward, at the stars....See more details below
In the most ambitious and exciting X-Files adventure to date, Mulder and Scully fly to the Yucatan jungle to investigate a missing team of archaelogists. Their exploration leads to a strange electronic signal coming from beneath ancient ruins -- a signal aimed upward, at the stars....
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The X-Files: Ruins
Xitaclan ruins,Yucatán, Mexico
Friday, 5:45 P.M.
Even after days of hard excavation, they had barely scratched the surface of the ancient city. But Cassandra Rubicon had already seen enough to know that the ruins held unimaginable secrets about the birth of the Maya empire.
At the far western edge of theYucatán, where the limestone plateau butted up against volcanic highlands and steamy jungles, the lost city had been hidden by nature for more than a thousand years. The native helpers had called the place Xitaclan, their voices tinged with awe and fear.
Cassandra rolled the word over in her mouth, reveling in the images it evoked of ancient sacrifices, pomp and splendor, blood priests wearing ornaments of jade and green quetzal feathers. Xitaclan.
In the late afternoon, she alone worked inside the Pyramid of Kukulkan, shining her flashlight ahead as she crept deeper, exploring. This place was absolutely alive with secrets. In the chalky bitterness of the air, she could taste the mysteries waiting for her to discover them.
Shining her flashlight ahead, Cassandra ran a dusty hand through perspiration-dampened cinnamon hair—the color of cinnamon bark, freshly peeled from the trees, her father always insisted, not the faded reddish-tan powder found on grocery-store spice racks. The color of her eyes hung midway between green and brown, like rich copper-bearing ore.
Outside, her partners in the University of California expedition kept themselves busy with the external excavations, mapping the overall layout of the city, with itsceremonial plaza, temples, and monolithic limestone obelisks—stelae—carved with fearsome images of mythical feathered serpents. They had found a vine-overgrown "ball court" arena, where the ancient Maya had played their bloody sport in which the losers—or winners, depending on some historical interpretations—were sacrificed to the gods.
An archaeological treasure trove, Xitaclan provided far too many ruins even for a large, well-financed crew to explore in anything less than a year. But Cassandra and her four young companions would do their best, for as long as their meager university funding held out.
Numerous moss-covered stelae towered at strategic astronomical points throughout the jungle, while others had toppled; all of them, though, contained rich and exciting glyphs. Christopher Porte, their team's epigrapher, delighted in attempting to translate them, transcribing them into the battered record book he kept in his pack at all times.
The showpiece of Xitaclan, though, was the magnificent stair-stepped Pyramid of Kukulkan that loomed over the center of the city. Though overgrown with weeds and underbrush, it was still beautifully preserved. Its architecture rivaled the great ziggurats at Chichén Itzá, Tikal, and Teotihuacán—but this one stood untouched. The locals' paralyzing superstitions had protected it from prying eyes. Until now.
Topping the pyramid's highest platform stood the many-pillared "Temple of the Feathered Serpent," with its amazing carvings and ornate friezes depicting calendars, myths, history. Cassandra had named the temple herself after noting the dense motifs that showed the wise g Kukulkan and his feathered reptilian companions or guardians—a common symbol of power in the Maya mythos. The intricate bas-reliefs added a new richness to the Quetzalcoatl / Kukulkan legends of the early Central American peoples.
Her team had also found an unfathomably deep cistern behind the pyramid, a natural limestone sinkhole filled with oily black water in whose murky depths Cassandra suspected hid many artifacts, relics . . . and quite probably the bones of sacrificial victims. Such limestone wells, or cenotes, were common in Maya cities of the Yucatán—but this one at Xitaclan had never been ransacked by treasure seekers or explored by archaeologists.
Her team planned to break out the diving equipment within a week, and she herself would descend into the depths—but for now they still had too much initial cataloguing to complete. More breathtaking discoveries, more work—but too little time, and too little money.
For now, she concentrated on exploring inside the pyramid.
If her team didn't do an overwhelming job here on their first visit, someone else in the competitive archaeological community would no doubt return with a larger expedition, better funding, and superior equipment. It could completely overshadow Cassandra's work.
The crews of native workers recruited by her team's local guide—Fernando Victorio Aguilar, a self-styled adventurer and "expediter"—had worked for days already, hacking and chopping at the underbrush, removing mahogany and ceiba trees, slashing ferns with their machetes, uprooting creepers to remove the shroud of time and nature from around Xitaclan.
As soon they saw the carvings of feathered serpents, though, the native workers had retreated in terror. They whispered to each other fearfully and refused to come closer to the site or to help with cleaning the ruins, even when she offered to increase their meager payment. Finally they fled. And then Aguilar ran off, abandoning her team in the deep jungle.
In her work, Cassandra had always respected native traditions and beliefs—it came with the territory—but her excitement at these discoveries had grown so intense that she found such superstitions frustrating, and her impatience flared up.
The archaeologists continued working on their own. They had supplies for a few weeks and a transmitter to call for help, should they need it. For now, she and the four others enjoyed their solitude.
Today, Kelly Rowan, the team's second archaeologist (and, as of recently, the man with whom she shared her tent) was spending the last hours of daylight on the outside steps of the pyramid, studying the Maya hieroglyphics. Christopher Porte bent beside him with his battered sketchpad, excitedly trying to translate the chiseled glyphs as Kelly used brushes and fine tools to remove debris from the designs.
Cait Barron, the team's historian and photographer, took advantage of the late afternoon light to work on one of her watercolors. Quiet and highly professional, Cait did her official work with the cameras and logbooks in a no-nonsense way. She took rolls of archival photos rapidly and efficiently—but once finished, she preferred using her paints to recreate the spirit of the place.The X-Files: Ruins. Copyright © by Kevin Anderson. Repr by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Kevin J. Anderson has published more than eighty novels, including twenty-nine national bestsellers. He has been nominated for the Nebula Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the SFX Reader's Choice Award. His critically acclaimed original novels include Captain Nemo, Hopscotch, and Hidden Empire. He has also collaborated on numerous series novels, including Star Wars, The X-Files, and Dune. In his spare time, he also writes comic books. He lives in Wisconsin.
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