Part Twelve: Welcome to Malatya

Allah Kahretsin means, literally, God dammit!

"Allah kahretsin!"

All three snapped their heads from Aaronís maps to the pilot, who was ripping his headset from his ears and swearing up a storm.

Aaron jumped up and rushed to his side. "Whatís the problem Mo?"

He turned to Aaron looking really pissed off. "I believe weíve been found. Seems as though we have a welcoming party waiting on the tarmac." He glanced back at the questioning expressions of Sydney and Nigel with baleful, Mediterranean eyes, then looked to Aaron. In a hushed voice, trying not to alarm the relic hunters, he elaborated. "My contact on the ground says thereís a small group at the airport, and if they get their hands on your friends, theyíll kill them."

Oh great, Aaron thought. "Is there anyplace else we can land?"

"Not at night... esol esek! I cannot see! You have all of ten minutes to think of something, we canít turn back. Iím too low on fuel!" Thinking about it a moment, Mo raised his bushy eyebrows excitedly. "May I suggest you use the secret door?"

Sydney leaned over to Nigel, worry starting to creep through their bodies. "What did he say?"

"I think he called him a son of a, a donkey!" He turned to Sydney, almost smiling. "I believe thatís the same phrase our taxi driver used a few times."

Aaron strode into the back cargo area of the plane past his friends on a mission. They watched as he shoved several large boxes to one side and looped his fingers into a small indent on the floor. "Here," he called them over, "You two get in. Thereís a hidden trap door to the very back. Gather up our research and keep that with you too. I may be a while, but Iíll catch up to you."

"Whatís happening?" Sydney demanded to know as she rushed to stuff all their information into her bag.

"We have company waiting for us to arrive...theyíve apparently got orders to kill you both on sight." He shamefully admitted. He thought he had taken every precaution, covered every track... "Just wait here until one of us opens the hatch. Can you do that?"

"Of course." Nigel threw his backpack into the dark hole, and crouching down he hopped inside. He immediately resigned himself to the fact that they might not get out of this one alive. "Come on Syd. He "held out his hand for her.

Aaron snapped the hatch shut and pushed three wooden crates over the opening just as Mo flared their plane over the threshold.

It was dark, and Sydney couldnít see three inches in front of her. She and Nigel sat cramped in the small partition, huddled together and afraid to breathe. It didnít take long to hear the familiar sounds of soldiers over taking the plane. Aaron put up a little bit of fuss, just to make it convincing, and was escorted out assuredly at the end of a gun. Mo was allowed to remain in the cockpit while several men searched the cargo area. Between the shuffling, scraping and yelling and stomping it was extremely difficult for either one of them to make out what these men were saying or for whom they worked.

What only took maybe a few minutes at the most, felt more like hours to the two foreigners as they remained tucked away, hidden from view. Sydney almost felt like she was going to have one of Nigelís classic panic attacks, and struggled to keep her breathing even and deep. The air was becoming almost thin to her.

"Nigel..."

"Syd, we need to be very quiet, you canít talk." He warned her, and snaked his arm around her waist to give her a reassuring hug. Was that fear he detected in her seemingly frail, tiny voice? Pulling her close, he kissed the top of her head. "Itís going to be all right, Aaron knows what heís doing."

She wrapped her slender fingers around his wrists tightly, starting to hyperventilate. "Oh God...Nigel, I have to get out of here!"

"Sydney, just calm down...please!" He could still hear soldiers outside interrogating Aaron. "Just a little longer, thatís all...you can do it."

She didnít know if she could hold on, and just couldnít believe she was feeling so claustrophobic. Especially now, of all times! She had never been like this before, having squeezed in and out of some of the tightest spots, in the deepest, darkest pits or tombs. Oh man...

A few more minutes passed, and suddenly, to their shock, the plane started to move once again. They stilled themselves... waiting. Maybe ten minutes later they came to a complete stop, and the engines were cut. There were no voices, just silence. When the bottom hatch sprung open, Nigel and Sydney nearly jumped out of their skins. There was Aaron, smiling like the cat that just got the canary, big as life.

"Welcome to Malatya!"

Go to Part Thirteen.


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