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Excerpt for The Cedars of Lebanon by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



The Cedars of Lebanon

By

Gary Carter

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

World Castle Publishing, LLC

Pensacola, Florida

Copyright © Gary Carter 2018

Smashwords Edition

Hardback ISBN: 9781629899046

Paperback ISBN: 9781629899053

eBook ISBN: 9781629899060

First Edition World Castle Publishing, LLC, April 16, 2018

http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com

Smashwords Licensing Notes

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.

Cover: Karen Fuller

Editor: Maxine Bringenberg


Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

About the Author


Chapter 1


I jerked when the phone rang.

“What?” I answered, lying on my side in bed, unable to open my eyes.

“Robin?” came the familiar, gruff voice.

“Who the hell do you think it is? It’s two-thirty in the morning, for Christ’s sake. I’m trying to sleep!”

“The girls are missing,” DeLoy answered. My boss at TimeSpan, Inc.—his voice sounded desperate, and far away.

“Which ones?” I asked, my eyes finally coming unglued.

“Mary Lee, Silicia, and Shandra. We need you over here right away.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, still sleepy, stalling for time to wake up. “Missing from where?”

“Phoenicia. We sent them back to Phoenicia Tuesday. They were supposed to be back twenty-four hours ago. Something’s happened. Now quit asking questions and get your butt over here. I’ll explain everything when you get here.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“No, I’m not kidding. Now get a move on, and bring your travel bag!”

When the receiver slammed down I knew my boss meant business. So much for my vacation. As I rolled out of bed it bothered me that, after going together several years, Mary Lee and I had parted ways only two weeks ago. That fact wasn’t going to make whatever was going on any easier.

* * *

I arrived at TimeSpan around four, the trip from my condo in Encinitas to Mission Viejo taking about an hour in my Porsche. I was paid well for what I did, perhaps too well, but the work was dangerous and required sacrifice, a lot of know-how, and was highly unpredictable. You should be paid well if part of your MO requires you to give your life to protect others. Bleary eyed, I made my way down a darkened corridor and up some stairs. DeLoy’s office, situated on the second floor, overlooked the massive underground vault that housed most of TimeSpan’s hardware.

“What’s this all about?” I asked, setting my travel bag on the floor. The room was large and rectangular. Two glass walls faced the compound below, overlooking the time transport paraphernalia. There were a dozen or so other people in DeLoy’s office, milling around, all haggard and red of eye, same as me. I nodded my hellos.

My boss stood behind his cluttered desk, has bald head gleaming beneath the overhead fluorescents. He explained.

“Why Phonecia?” I asked when he was finished. DeLoy, an impatient man, never went into detail about much of anything.

“You were briefed before you went on vacation,” he answered, his usual irritable self. Old age did that to you, I guess. Old age and overwhelming responsibility. “Can’t you remember anything?”

“Not when I’m supposed to be on vacation.”

DeLoy frowned. “We sent them back for cedars. You’ve heard of the Cedars of Lebanon?”

“Refresh me,” I answered, helping myself to some coffee from the small bar behind his desk.

“Shandra Hahn got the grant. Does your marble brain remember her?”

“Yeah. The tall, good looking black girl, right?”

“Right. Our botanist. Anyway, after five months she finally received her money from the government to time trip back to ancient Lebanon. Mary Lee is the pilot, and Sissy Haifa went along as historian and interpreter. You know where Lebanon is? Ancient Phoenicia?”

“The Eastern Mediterranean, right? Part of the area that was laid waste during the Devastation.”

“Yes. We sent them back to gather plants. Seeds, saplings, cuttings, whatever they could find, but primarily the cedars. We’ll propagate from those and, when we have enough stock, and the Mideast has cooled down sufficiently, we’ll replant. There’s not enough of the materials left in our world to do the job properly. If our efforts are successful then we’ll reintroduce the fauna, followed, hopefully, by people—but that’s a ways off yet. There’s a tremendous amount of work to do. Pee Wee here will fill you in on the rest.”

Pee Wee, as DeLoy called him, was the only person in the room that I’d never met. I could tell we didn’t have much in common. He was a mousy kind of guy, a runt, a twerp, a nerd, one of those know-it-all types that knew everything but how to fight. He was definitely not the kind of person I wanted to time trip with, if that’s what DeLoy had in mind. Not where danger was hidden around every corner.

“Allow me to introduce myself, Mr. Beauchamp,” the squirt said, coming over. He offered his hand and I took it reluctantly. No grip at all. Hand all milky and soft. “I’m Paul Haifa. People I know call me Pee Wee, as you’ve probably guessed. I’m going with you as your linguist and historian and, of course, to help you find the girls.”

I looked to DeLoy in desperation, then the name connected. “You’re Sissy’s old man,” I said, still holding the guy’s puny palm. I let go.

“Yes, sir. That’s me.”

“Glad to meet you,” I lied. Pee Wee stepped back, then sat himself on the edge of DeLoy’s desk. The others around the room became quiet. Pee Wee’s squinty eyes fell on me.

“As you may know,” he began, “both Silicia and I are linguists and historians. Our areas of interest are the Mideast, including ancient Phoenicia, so when Shandra got the grant she called my wife. Sissy would interpret, help with the chores and the primary assignment, while gathering what history she could on the side. Mary Lee would be their pilot and security guard, as it were. Same job as yours, Mr. Beauchamp.”

“I know what Mary Lee’s job is, Haifa,” I said, not liking the guy. “And call me Robin. I hate ‘Misters’.”

“All right, sir, Robin it is. Anyway, the girls’ mission, as Mr. Hilton stated, was to collect plants and seeds and the like, thousands and thousands of them if they could, the cedars being of paramount importance because of their history and utility. Phoenicia was picked, circa 600 BC, because of its abundance of eastern Mediterranean flora; plus it offers an excellent opportunity to study a little known culture. The Levant, a broader term for the area, was supposed to be at its height around that time, but as you may know, the only records we have of the people there come primarily from the Bible and a few scribblings on stone, mainly Egyptian. The Phoenicians used papyrus, you see, to keep their records. Unfortunately, paper back then, as now, doesn’t last very long. The main goal, however, to reiterate, was to gather seeds and such, bring them back here, and propagate them, and then reforestation of the ancient Holy Lands can begin. An excellent project combined with an equally excellent historical opportunity. Regrettably, apparently something has gone haywire.”

“Regrettably,” I echoed, feeling sorry for the guy despite myself. His wife was back there, after all. I doubted he really wanted to go back. Pee Wee hardly seemed the adventurous type, but like me, obviously had little choice in the matter. “Why not go back just prior to the war?” I asked. “Why all the way back to 600 BC?”

“Several reasons. Thirteen of the twenty-two so-called Mideastern nations were involved in the war. Where do you start to negotiate? More than that, any helicopters flying over any of those countries back then would no doubt have been shot down as soon as they were spotted. Way too risky. That, plus there was hardly any native flora or fauna left before the war. The peoples of Lebanon and other regions had denuded their land to the point where it is doubtful any plants and animals of any consequence could be found. The land was virtually stripped of any vegetation by goats and sheep, and erosion was rampant. To return the area to a pristine garden of Eden is not only a challenge to our company, but to all of mankind as well, whom our company represents. I might remind you that Sissy, Shandra, and Mary Lee were not sent to Phonecia on a whim, as some people might think, but out of necessity if we’re all to survive the global effects of the war.”

Pee Wee paused for a second to catch his breath, then continued, the rest of us intent on what he was saying.

“I’ll also remind you that, in order to get funding for all of this, for any time trip, the government requires that historical data be collected no matter what else concerns the mission. Despite the situation, the trip was a golden opportunity to do just that, collect historical data. Anyway, to answer your unspoken question, the taking of seeds, cuttings, and the like shouldn’t affect the timeline in any way.”

You hope, I thought.

“But something’s gone wrong,” I reiterated, thinking of Mary Lee and our recent problems. I had been in love with the girl, still was, but I had always been attractive to the opposite sex; tall, dark, and handsome, if you will. This can be tough, especially if you’ve had a hard day and your woman isn’t sympathetic. Nothing happened at the bar. Was it my fault Mary Lee came looking for me after our argument, and found me sitting at a table with a couple of attractive younger women, having a good time? Was it my fault she was really busy and not in a loving mood of late? Mary Lee wouldn’t listen, and when I went back to her house, after she had stormed out of the bar, Mary Lee had slammed the door and told me she never wanted to see me again. Even so, leaving her back in time was not an option; not to mention the other girls and a billion-dollar time machine, hopefully still sitting there and operational.

“Yeah, something went wrong,” DeLoy said, breaking into my thoughts. “Our biggest fear is that they’ve been captured by hostiles, or thrown into some guy’s harem somewhere. Or dead, God forbid. Sad to say, but the Mideast has always had a history of violence.”

“Then we’re going after them?” I asked, getting bored with all the talk.

“Immediately,” DeLoy answered. “You’ll be briefed shortly. The Salvation is being readied now. Remember the rules of time travel: no living thing is to be killed while you’re back there. Stun guns only for protection. We’ll need to rely on our muscles if we get into a tight spot.” Great, I thought, looking at the twerp. We?


Chapter 2

DeLoy rambled on for a while and then we were moving back downstairs, into the vault, the time-techs babbling among themselves. I kept quiet for the most part, thinking about my work ahead. Down another flight of stairs and through a long corridor and we were in the hangar. For some reason the runt kept close to me, a fact I found bothersome.

“You ever been on a time trip, Haifa?”

“No sir, but my wife has. She clued me in on a lot of things.”

Precious lot of good that did. There were three time-choppers in the hangar when we exited the corridor. All in all TimeSpan owned four boats, as far as we knew the only ones in the world. Two were in commission—mine and Mary Lee’s—one was under construction, and the other undergoing major repairs, the product of a really nasty emergence back in Sumer, the result of coming out too close to a mountain that wasn’t supposed to be there. After that the emergence zone had been raised to five-thousand feet instead of the previous twenty-five hundred, which was still a wild-ass guess no matter how you sliced it. One thing we’d learned since the business started was not to put too much faith in maps, ancient or present.

Our birds, the Salvation, along with the Reformation and the Rally, were parked in stalls around the perimeter of the man-made cave. The fourth, of course, was Mary Lee’s Restoration, hopefully back where we were headed. There was no way to know for sure. Communication links between the past and present were, so far, impossible with our present technology. You learned to say your prayers in this job, though I’d be the last to admit it.

In the exact center of the hangar’s ceiling was the time-transport paraphernalia—or “Vortex,” as those of us who worked there liked to call it—a large, imposing, conical shaped hole rising from the ceiling and opening into the atmosphere a hundred feet above. When it was time to go you rolled your modified helicopter onto the platform at center stage and tuned it in, then activated the rotors. Next the Vortex was turned on, you were sucked into it, and in a matter of seconds, if everything went right, you were gone, hopefully pointed in the right direction.

So far I’d been on the first run, back to Egypt when the first pyramids were being built, and to Jerusalem, during the time of Jesus, though we’d failed to find him. By necessity our projects were aimed at collecting seeds, etc., to try and restore the Mideast. The gathering of history, via notes and photography, was secondary to the primary mission. Up above, outside the cave, we were starting to get the job done in the over forty acres of greenhouses, some of them stuffed with seedlings and cuttings from ancient Egypt and Turkey, all doing well so far. Mission Viejo, situated in Southern California and close to the Pacific Ocean, was an excellent growing area, warm and sunny most of the time and seldom freezing. Weather was the main reason TimeSpan had located there, despite the expensive properties. The locals were not a bit happy with our government’s use of Eminent Domain to acquire their land for the project.

Later, when the Mideast was replanted and habitable again, assuming our world was still functioning, we would venture to places like Rome and Stonehenge, perhaps even to prehistoric times, though time theory had it that the farther back in time you went the greater the chance of altering the future. I doubted I’d be around to see places like Stonehenge when it was being built. First and foremost on humanity’s agenda was restoring our blighted and damaged world. Among other things, since the Devastation the earth’s wind patterns had diverged, bringing torrential rains to some previously dry areas and drought to normally wet climates. Our planet was one big mess and we were in a hurry to try and save it—needed to be in a hurry, needed to try everything we could, or we could lose it all.

“Robin,” DeLoy said as we stood surveying the Salvation, “Why don’t you and Pee Wee go back up to the lounge for a while? Pee Wee, as historian, I want you to clue him in on what to expect. We’ve got another hour or so here.”

“Yes, sir,” Haifa said, then turned to me. “Where’s the lounge?”

“You don’t know?”

“No,” Haifa answered. “I’ve never been down here, only to the office on occasion. I wouldn’t be here now if Sissy wasn’t in danger. Time travel is too risky. I’m totally against it.”

“You could have fooled me,” I said, wondering at the luck of the draw. I turned and Haifa followed me. Soon we were in the lounge, on the same level as the office. There was fresh coffee and some leftover doughnuts, and I helped myself. The twerp opted for oatmeal and tea. It figured.

“Ever hear of Tyre?” he asked, after we’d been seated at a small table.

“Can’t say that I have,” I answered, moving to the other side of the table, away from where the runt had sat down next to me. “Is it a city in Phoenicia?”

“Yes,” Haifa answered, looking hurt that I had moved. I guess I was going to have to tell the squirt that I didn’t like to be crowded, as he sure as hell wasn’t picking up on my hints. “It was one of the major trading centers around 600 BC,” he continued over spoonfuls of oatmeal. “According to the literature we have on the period, anyway.”

“So, we really don’t know what we’ll find?”

“In a way. We have a good idea despite the lack of documents. That’s the reason Sissy wanted to go back there so bad, to confirm what we know and write a more complete history, take some pictures. That period of time is her expertise, one of the subjects she teaches at the university. I never dreamed she’d get lost.”

I didn’t say anything. The look on the guy’s face said it all.

“I…I have some drawings, of the girls,” Pee Wee said, changing the subject. He took several scrolls from out of the small briefcase he’d been toting around and handed them across the table to me. I couldn’t help but notice his hands were shaking. “We…we’ll show them to the natives, ask if they’ve seen them. I don’t know what else to do. Tyre was a big city back then, but small by modern standards. If the girls are still there, or were there, we should be able to track them down. That was one of her destinations, Tyre.”

“I’m presuming you speak the language?”

“Yes. At least I hope I do. It’s supposed to be a derivative of ancient Akkadian, termed Babylonian Akkadian. Sissy and I both studied it in college and abroad. As much as we could, anyway. If they speak it, or something close to it, we should be okay.”

“And if they don’t?”

“As a linguist, I speak other languages from the period,” Haifa said without arrogance. “Ancient Hebrew and Egyptian, and I can decipher cuneiform and hieroglyphics.”

I was impressed, but all his knowledge didn’t amount to much back where we were going. Where we were going all the smarts in the world didn’t do you much good if you didn’t have the muscle to go along with it, and I had the scars to prove it.

“We’ll be wearing sherwals,” Pee Wee continued, “a type of nomadic dress worn back then, although the Phoenician men were supposed to have worn skirts without shirts, and the women what you might call hot climate dresses. Very colorful. We’ll be posing as shepherds and wearing the appropriate headdresses, unless you have a better idea?”

“No, but thanks for asking.”

“I figure the sherwals will hide anything we have to carry underneath. They’re a type of long, wrap around, ankle-length robe, very baggy. We should fit right in. At least, that’s the plan.”

We had several large rooms filled with costumes from times past, in conjunction with our mission, so I didn’t question where he got the stuff on such short notice.

“They had beards, too, didn’t they?” I asked.

“We think so. We have those, too.”

“You seem to have thought of everything.”

Pee Wee nodded. “I helped Sissy and the others plan the mission. It’s our area of expertise, after all. We should be fine.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell the twerp everything wouldn’t be fine. There were diseases, cutthroats, wild lions, and slave dealers, pitfalls you never dreamed of when planning a time trip. The guy was down enough, and I didn’t want to frighten him anymore than he already was. Pee Wee clued me in on a few more things, and then DeLoy was in the room.

“All right,” the old man said, breathing hard. Pushing sixty and overweight, DeLoy was not in the best of shape. “We’re about ready downstairs. You guys all set?”

“As ready as we’ll ever be,” I answered.

“Good,” DeLoy said as he grabbed a doughnut. “There’s room for one more. I’m going with you.”

“What?” I said, not happy with that idea at all. “What the hell good do you think you can do back there? You’re out of shape, Hilton, and there’s precious little time to get back in it. And who’s supposed to run things here while you’re gone?”

“Sheridan McElroy. She’s fully capable, and we need someone to fly the Restoration back here if something’s happened to Mary Lee.”

“This is crap, DeLoy. To be blunt about it, you’ll slow us down”

“You know, I hate to hurt your feelings, Robin, but right about now I really don’t give a shit what you think. These are my birds, and these missions are my responsibility. Do you have any idea how far back the program will be set if we lose one of our machines?”

“Yeah, I do. You’ve told me often enough. And what happened to going back for the girls?”

“It takes six months or so to train a pilot, Robin. Researchers are a dime a dozen. It takes a good two years to build a time machine, if not longer, to be blunt about it. You figure it out.”

“You’re a son-of-a-bitch, DeLoy. You know that? You mind telling me what happened to our other two trained pilots? Why they’re not here instead of me?”

“They’re too far away to get here in time,” DeLoy answered, unperturbed at what I’d called him. I guess I’d done it too often, and the effect was wearing off. “I’m going, and that’s final. There’s far too much at stake here to send you and Pee Wee back by yourselves. Now, no more arguing, we have a window to make. Are you coming or not?”

I looked at my overweight boss. I looked at the runt. I thought of the rigors and dangers ahead. Had I been alone I would have cried.

“Yeah,” I said, thinking of the girls. “But remember, it’s my boat, and I give the orders.”

A half hour later we were in our flight gear, the Salvation’s rotors screaming, the ship vibrating so bad I thought it might rip apart. Seconds later we were being sucked into the Vortex. I thought of Mary Lee, and whether I would ever see her again, and what I would say if did.


Chapter 3


Blowing out in another time zone is the worst part of the trip. One second everything is black and disoriented, the next you’re falling out of the sky. I’d been lucky so far. None of my birds had exited on the side of a mountain, or beneath the ocean, or anything like that, but the possibility was always there. Time travel was in its infancy, after all, and all the kinks had not been ironed out—not by a long shot. Going back twenty-six hundred years, when things topographical should look about the same as the present, was bound to be better than going back twenty-six million years without a clue as to where you would emerge. Hell, you could land on top of a volcano or, worse yet, inside one. I’d leave those kinds of trips, should the day ever come, for the younger, more adventurous time-trippers.

“Hang on!” I yelled, wrestling with the controls. The Salvation had emerged sideways and was in immediate danger of rolling over on her back. A lesser pilot might have panicked, end of trip, but I’m the best there is. Seconds later I had my bird upright and level, the perspiration on my brow condensed and streaking down my face. DeLoy, in the seat to my right, was a little drawn but otherwise okay. The runt in back was as white as a sheet, and looked ready to puke. I got the cameras rolling before I turned around.

“Grab that bag there, in front of your seat!” I barked, pointing. Pee Wee grabbed the barf bag none too soon, leaving his oatmeal and morning tea in it. The cockpit filled with the foul odor of vomit, but I didn’t have time to think about it. I took rapid note of my surroundings, checking and rechecking my instrument panel.

The sky was crystal clear, an eye-popping deep blue you’d never see back home. Not anymore, not after the Devastation. Maybe never again. Far off, a few scattered clouds played tag above a long, serpentine range of mountains. Below and to my right, maybe forty-five hundred feet below, stretched endless miles of rolling hills and stunted mountains, some forested and some not. Where trees were absent, vast fields of yellow and brown grasses, like summer wheat at harvest time, billowed in the wind. You could almost smell it. To my left stretched more of the same, graduating down to an iridescent, blue-green sea, white capped and breathtaking; the ancient Mediterranean in all its pristine glory, inviting me down. Not at all like the muddy, smelly mess it was now.

“I’ve got a signal!” DeLoy said, excited, his eyes intent on our instrument panel.

I watched as he punched the locator button. Soon a topographic map of the terrain below popped up on one of several screens set before us. Pee Wee leaned forward, his eyes red and wet.

“Are you done?” I asked, moving sideways, away from him, squinching my nose at the smell.

“I hope so,” he answered weakly.

“Then dump that bag. There’s a hole by your feet. Undo the latch and pull up the lid, then drop it down the chute. You’re stinking up the place.”

“But that’s against the rules of time travel. No pollution.”

“Dump it! And quit worrying, it’s biodegradable. The bag will burn up quick once it’s ejected, along with everything in it. It was designed that way.”

“But—”

DeLoy turned around, which was a good thing because I was about to grab the runt around his scrawny neck. “Do as he says, Pee Wee. I doubt a few ashes are going to change the future.”

Pee Wee opened the hatch and dropped the bag. I turned up the air, sprayed some Orange Blossom Special, and things were okay again, even though I was still pissed that Pee Wee hadn’t obeyed the order when I had given it.

“There!” DeLoy said, pointing north, out the window. “The signal is coming from that valley, over the ridge.”

I followed his point as Pee Wee sat back, looking for all the world like he was going to puke again. I looked his way.


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