The Staff of Moses – Chapter 23

Chopper

Taking turns with the mapping software, Oliver and Diana managed to identify seventeen possible locations for the temple. The tablet was running a mapping application containing high resolution satellite imagery of the entire country, which could be overlaid with a detailed topographical map to verify the contours of the desert. Diana estimated that the “three day journey” could be anywhere between thirty and one hundred fifty miles, depending on whether the directions assumed traveling on foot, by camel, or in a chariot. Given the accuracy of ancient desert navigation techniques, she also suggested searching north and south of the indicated path in a widening search pattern. The upshot of this was that they ended up swiping the tablet map slowly north, then a little west, then south and a little west, and then north again across an ever expanding triangle of desert that encompassed over seven thousand square miles. They took turns swiping at the screen and gazing over each other’s shoulders, stopping occasionally to blink and gaze out at the shifting shadows of the canyon walls.

Kyle stopped by now and then to berate them for not producing results fast enough, but for the most part he stayed with Frank, who sat sullenly in the padded copilot seat of the helicopter, smoking cigarettes and badgering the medic to administer more morphine.

“You’re telling me that we need to check seventeen different locations?” Kyle exclaimed, as Diana pointed to the various possible temple sites marked on the map. “Do you have any idea how much it costs to fly this helicopter? How difficult it is to keep out of sight of Egyptian radar systems?”

Diana shrugged and gestured at the canyon surrounding them. “Just look around you. Thousands of years ago this was a lush valley with a stream flowing through it. There would have been fields of grain bordering the stream. That sandy plaza surrounding the chapel would have been a garden filled with trees and flowers, probably with a few pools of fresh water stocked with fish. The rooms of the house were filled with dozens of living people.”

“Get to the point.”

“My point is that a lot can change in over three thousand years. The message describes the temple sitting in the center of a lake far out in the desert, but there are no lakes west of here for over a thousand miles, so Oliver and I had to look for geological formations that could have been that lake long ago. Let me tell you Kyle, it’s not easy to find a lake that is not there.” Diana had managed to keep her voice level for most of the explanation, but by the end, she began to enunciate each word with a sharp clarity that Oliver knew she only used when truly angry.

He couldn’t blame her.

Oliver put a hand on Diana’s shoulder to calm her, then said, “You asked us to find the temple. Our best guess is one of these locations. Some might be nothing more than shallow valleys with rock formations at the center, but if one is the temple…” He waited, hoping that Kyle would get the point.

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