When Plato wrote about the great city of Atlantis, he was merely recording a rich oral tradition of the great city, a rich oral tradition that was thousands of years old.
The legend has, from time to time, been co-opted by various people for their own purposes. But, the bones of the legend have always remained; a beautiful, advanced city on an island that was sunk to the bottom of an equally great ocean. Two reasons are put forth for the sinking of the city; a catastrophe of nature, or a battle of unprecedented ferocity.
The legend survived the fall of empires, both great and small, the Dark Ages, and war after war. It was transplanted to a new continent, where the indigenous peoples had their own myths regarding the lost city.
Visual artists, both known and unknown, have depicted the city in art. Often the city was shown under the ocean, her walls tumbled, and statuary fallen. Her temples and buildings were painted as Greek, or Egyptian, or Phoenician, or Minoan, or some combination thereof. It was only in the mid 20th century that the city began to be shown as futuristic, or even alien.
However, there once lived an unknown artist that anticipated how people would eventually come to think of the city, and that foreshadowed her actuality. He resided in a small village, and painted dozens of canvases over the course of thirty years, beginning in 1762. He always painted the lost city with tall towers and spires. He showed the city at dusk and dawn, sometimes from a bird’s eye point of view, but usually with a more intimate viewpoint. His city abounded with balconies and color and light and large panels of stained glass.
The people that populated his canvases were unusual for the time; strong, capable women in masculine clothing, and grim faced men. He rarely repeated the people with some exceptions. There was a tall, slender woman with short dark hair, often standing at the head of groups of people, seemingly in charge, along with three blonde women, and a lithe, dusky skinned warrior in swirling skirts that carried two sticks.
Of his male figures, five appeared most often; a tall man with silver hair, always standing next to a golden skinned man with eyeglasses, a man with dark messy hair and hazel eyes always near a blue-eyed man. And a huge man, his long hair hanging in a braid-like style that came to be called dreads.
In 1792, when the artist mysteriously vanished, hundreds of sketches were found among his belongs. Most of the cityscapes were named with years, while the portraits had been given strange, foreign sounding names.
As is the way with such legacies, much of the artist’s work was lost to time. The paintings and sketches were destroyed by fire or flood, or left behind, or thrown away as useless or valueless. But, some of the paintings still graced seldom used guestrooms. Their owners showed them off, half proudly, half sheepish embarrassment.
Every so often over the years, a sketch would show up at a swap meet or a church bazaar, and be sold as a curiosity for a dollar or two. And once or twice every fifty or eighty years, a painting would appear in a store specializing in junk or oddities or antiques, keeping the legend of Atlantis alive.
The SGC: A month after Rodney’s disappearance.
Once the material Rodney indicated should be sent to Doctor Zelenka had been pushed through the wormhole, Daniel turned his attention to another matter Jack wanted answers for. Truthfully, it was a puzzle Daniel didn’t mind exploring; his own curiosity had been whetted.
As part of his inventory of the materials delivered by Justin White, Daniel had been prepared to write a full description of the painting Rodney had left with his lawyers in the past. Once the painting had been unwrapped and viewed, Jack had requested it be locked in Daniel’s lab until he could devote the time to research its history.
After Daniel had examined the painting closely and had seen the unexpected signature of the artist and the painted figures, he fully agreed with Jack’s decision. Now that Rodney’s research had been distributed to those capable of understanding it, Daniel’s attention returned to the painting.
Knocking on Jack’s closed door, Daniel waited for permission to enter. He heard Jack call out and entered to find his lover buried under what seemed a ton or two of paperwork. “I could come back if you’re busy,” Daniel offered.
“No, come sit down. I was just about to break for coffee anyway,” Jack grumbled. “Did the delivery go okay?”
“Yep. All the packages went through,” Daniel replied.
“So you can start the research on the painting now?” Jack inquired.
“Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I can’t see how I can do the research and turn my department over to Robert before we leave for Atlantis,” Daniel explained.
“Daniel, this is too dangerous to give to just anyone,” Jack cautioned.
“I know, Jack. But, we aren’t a hundred percent sure it’s his work. It could be a coincidence.”
“Let’s not kid ourselves, Daniel,” Jack remarked dryly. “You and I both know what the research is going to show. We’ve both seen Lorne’s work, and in case you didn’t notice - - he painted you, me, Sheppard and McKay on the balcony,” Jack drawled. “Oh, and let’s not forget, we both know that view from Atlantis, and that the writing is Ancient. Thank fuck he didn’t stick in the ‘gate room or the jumpers,” he concluded.
Daniel removed his glasses and choked back laughter. “Yeah, okay, you’ve got a point. How would you feel about Nyan doing the research?”
“Nyan,” Jack mulled over the Bedrosian scientist. “You need to make him understand how important it is that he never talks about this with anyone, Daniel.”
“I’ll make him understand,” Daniel agreed.
Nyan left Doctor Jackson’s office determined that he would find the answers Daniel sought. He had been on Earth for more than ten years now, and was well integrated into the Stargate Program. He had gradually stopped pining for his home world and had come to think of Earth as his home.
In his fifth year, Nyan had asked for and received permission to live off base. It gave him the opportunity to really learn about Earth and how to fit in. One of his proudest moments was when he received his driver’s license. Three years ago, he had married a fellow research assistant. She understood the security issues that came along with working at the SGC, which was good, because Nyan’s security clearance was higher than hers, and there were many things he couldn’t discuss with her.
His current assignment was something he couldn’t discuss with anyone, ever, with the exception of Doctor Jackson and General O’Neill. Nyan didn’t often need to travel to fulfill his duties, and Daniel wasn’t certain how for long he’d be gone. Nyan was anticipating this trip more than he wanted anyone to know.
He’d viewed the painting in the privacy of Daniel’s lab, memorizing the details. Nyan listened attentively as Daniel explained what little he knew about the painting; where it was purchased and when. The artist had thoughtfully added the year and location to the painting, along with his initials. Lastly, he hid his shock when Daniel told him who the suspected artist was. If Nyan wondered how the SGC obtained the painting or the information related to it, he kept his curiosity to himself.
Recognizing the painted figures of Jack, Daniel, Sheppard, and McKay, Nyan’s agile mind leapt to all the correct conclusions, although that was part of what he wasn’t allowed to speak about. It was the writing, however, that motivated him. The six words repeated twice, in a language and alphabet long gone, worried him.
Daniel made the travel arrangements, booking a room for him at The Putney Inn for an indeterminate amount of time, and rented him a car. He was given specific instructions along with a credit card and cash for expenses. He was slated to leave tomorrow afternoon, giving him time to pack and to spend some time with his wife.
Nyan’s research took a little over five weeks, and took him from coast to coast. It didn’t take him long to discover the local ghosts were named Lorne and Parrish. When he had shown up at the Putney Historical Society, and told the curator, Pearl Bratton what he wanted, she immediately told him a dozen stories about supposed encounters people had had with their ghosts.
The Historical Society was located in a deconsecrated church and shared space with the local theater group, who staged plays once per month, often with puppets. They were currently rehearsing ‘June Wedding’, a play about a traditional Jewish lesbian wedding. As it included juggling, Nyan though General O’Neill would have appreciated it a lot more than he did. Much to Nyan’s dismay, he found the puppets creepy. He was happy that the office he needed to work in was on the second floor, well away from the stage and the creepy puppets.
Nyan was shown into the large room and given a brief explanation of the materials available for his research. In addition to the Parrish/Lorne household inventory, there were handwritten journals that contained a great deal of information that would not be found elsewhere. During the years 1760 to 1780, the Reverend T. R. Toogood had kept a diary of sorts, recording random information about his flock. He had been a gossipy man, and some very private thoughts found their way into his notes, contained in eight volumes.
Nyan initially had some difficulty with the formal language and the Reverend’s handwriting. Pearl was on hand to translate anything he didn’t understand. It was readily apparent that she had read the journals and knew them well. She had provided him with a list of dates in which Evan Lorne or David Parrish were mentioned. He notated every rumor, innuendo, or fact that the nosy man had written concerning Evan and David, and there was a lot. The inaptly named man seemed to have been obsessed with the two men.
The household inventory that had been taken after the two men disappeared revealed information that was pertinent to Nyan’s research. In addition to the furnishings, linens, clothing, guns, tools, food, and other usual household items, 747 sketches, 31 ink drawings, and 112 paintings were listed. These were broken down further; 521 of the sketches were portraits, 115 were of various scenes in and around Putney, and 111 were listed as ‘The City’. All 31 of the ink drawings were of plants. Of the paintings, 32 were described as ‘Vermont scenery’, with the remaining 80 called, ‘The City’.
As is the way in small towns the world over, news of Nyan’s research made its way into the local gossip mill before the first day was out. Although the town was used to tourists who enjoyed the skiing in the winter, the pageantry of fall, and the many and varied outdoor recreation and art galleries the rest of the time, it was unusual for a scholar to find his way to Putney.
Nyan finished the first day well satisfied. He’d reviewed the inventory list, and made a good start on Rev. Toogood’s journals. As he read through the material, he often snorted at the irony of the man’s name. The Reverend T. R. Toogood had been anything but.
The Putney Inn was a short drive from the playhouse, and Nyan was looking forward to dinner. His room, in a separate building from the dining room was comfortable, and had included a menu. With the exception of beets and broccoli Nyan had yet to encounter food he disliked, and the Inn had a limited, but interesting menu.
Nyan pulled his car into the parking lot, his spot situated in front of his ground level room, surprised to see a battered pick up in the spot next to his. He’d been told that the Inn was empty as it was Monday. It would begin filling up again on Thursday with skiers, mainly from New York City. There was a grizzled octogenarian, looking irritated waiting in the truck.
The man’s face cleared when he saw Nyan, and he rolled down his window. “Hey, you the young fella doing that research over to the playhouse?”
Nyan just stared at the man for a few seconds as his speech was almost incomprehensible. Pearl spoke with the flat nasal accent of much of New England. Most of the other people Nyan had encountered sounded like people from Anywhere, USA. This man, with his distinctive ‘fronting’, that emphasized the first consonants of words, and ‘raising’, that elongated the vowels sounds, along with his glottal stops before his t’s, rendered his speech, if not unintelligible, then very difficult.
When the man’s question had finally formed into understandable words, Nyan nodded his head. “Yes, sir, I am. I’m Nyan.”
“Could be that I could help you. You get up to the part where Lorne and Parrish took in five kids?” the man asked.
“Uh, not yet, though Pearl did mention that they took in a few orphans,” Nyan answered.
“You just finish reading them journals, and then you come visit me. I live up on Bare Hill Road, number 16. You might have to leave your fancy car, road ain’t paved. I reckon I could help you out some,” he said, spitting out the window. “Bring beer,” he ordered.
“Okay?” Nyan said uncertainly.
“I’m Abner Lund. One of my ancestors is Robert Slocombe, one of the kids them boys took in,” the old man said by way of explanation before driving off.
After a hearty dinner, Nyan entered his notes onto his laptop, emailed Daniel, and went to bed, anxious to get an early start the next day. Pearl had agreed to start early for as long as he wanted.
Over the next week, Nyan went through all the available public records the Historical Society had, along with a number of old church records. He had convinced Pearl to allow him to have copies of photocopies of the journals, sweetening the deal with a sizable donation.
He followed the thin threads, building family trees for the five children Lorne and Parrish had taken in during the war years. Many of the descendents of the five orphans had settled in and around Putney, and had continually intermarried throughout the years. Of those that had left, Nyan would begin following their trail through public records available on the Internet. Most had no bearing on Nyan’s immediate goals, so he put them out of mind for the time being. He would eventually gather all those loose threads in case they added anything to full picture.
When he exhausted the information available in the Historical Society, he spent one long day at the Town Hall, going through their public records, until he had the most complete picture that was possible using whatever written records there were. Before returning to the Inn, Nyan stopped at the grocery store, picking up a case of beer and some nonperishable snacks in anticipation of his visit with Abner Lund.
Nyan was forced to walk the last few hundred yards to the small and unexpectedly neat home. Worried his car would get damaged on the rough road, he pulled over to the side, grabbed his laptop case, the beer and the bag of food and crunched his way through the snow.
The door opened at his approach. “About time, young man. You bring beer?”
“Yes, sir, I did. Brought some snack food also,” Nyan said, stomping his shoes on the rough mat just inside the open door.
“Well, it’s a tad early for beer, but I expect you’ll still be here later. Got some soup up. Old family recipe,” Abner said.
Nyan looked around the comfortable house with its well-polished furniture, a roaring fire burning in the fireplace in the living room. He could smell a rich beef soup, causing his stomach to rumble although it was only eleven in the morning and he’d eaten a good breakfast. “I look forward to it, sir. It smells wonderful.”
It wasn’t until Nyan had fully entered the living room that he saw the painting hanging above the couch. He managed to control his excitement, and casually said, “That’s an interesting painting, Mr. Lund.”
“Ain’t it though? I expect that’s why you’re here, though. Someone should finally tell the truth about Evan Lorne,” the old man exclaimed.
“The truth? What do you think the truth is?” Nyan asked weakly.
“That he came from another world,” Abner stated.
Nyan suddenly found himself in deep waters, and took a moment to compose himself. While he knew that aliens did in fact exist, he also knew the Tau’ri that believed in that fact outside of the Stargate Program were often considered crazy. The old man seemed eccentric, but not crazy. He covered his uncertainty by unpacking his laptop, a notebook, and his small recorder, thinking Daniel would be interested in a regional accent that seemed to be fast disappearing. He was glad he’d packed so many tapes. “Mr. Lund, would you mind if I recorded our conversation?”
“No, I wouldn’t mind at all, but I suspect you’d best call me Abner.”
“Alright,” Nyan agreed. “Why do you think Evan Lorne came from another world,” Nyan asked, using the same wording Abner had.
“I noticed you were mighty interested in the painting, though I will admit you did an admirable job of pretending you weren’t,” Abner started. “T’ain’t just me y’know. Lots of folks think the same damn thing, at least they used to. Them that’s left won’t never admit to it, though. Especially since they turned the whole damn town into some kinda hippie artist community,” Abner said bitterly.
‘Um, Abner, why do you feel other people think that?” Nyan asked gently.
“I’m related to a lot of the town, son. At least I was, until all them dumb fuck New Yorkers moved in, and then the Irish elite from Boston,” Abner explained. “There was a time when some of us were close, and we used to talk. A course, most of my contemporaries are gone, now,” Abner said sadly.
Nyan knew he had to be careful here. Daniel had told him that in many small, old towns, family stories were passed down, often intact, through the generations. Nyan didn’t want to offend his host, nor did he want to miss the chance to get a better understanding of the life Lorne might have led in the past. Then, there was the painting to consider. He wanted a closer look at it, and the opportunity to purchase it. Also, there was no telling what else Abner might have related to his search.
Making a point of opening his notebook to a clean page and gripping his pen, Nyan said, “I’m a scientist, Abner, so I need proof. Tell me why you think Evan Lorne came from another world.”
Abner Lund’s Story
Abner sat back on the couch, settling in. He’d been waiting a long time to tell his story, and he wanted to tell it just right. “You finished reading Toogood’s diaries?” he asked Nyan.
He waited for Nyan’s nod before continuing. “Well, the nosy son of a bitch had most of it right. None of the kids Parrish and Lorne took in ever saw them doing anything, but it was a fact that they slept in the same bed.
“It’s also true that they helped escaped slaves,” Abner related proudly. He and many of the other people in town descendant from the orphans had heard dozens of stories about the slaves David and Evan had helped find freedom. From that rich heritage, many of people living in Putney had proudly and defiantly stood up for civil rights throughout the town’s long history.
“Reverend Toogood was a loyalist, and he tried to incite his congregation into siding with the British. I’m sure you read about his suspicions regarding where Lorne’s loyalty lay?” he inquired.
“Yes, I did. I was a little shocked that a man of the cloth would think about turning in two of his parishioners,” Nyan answered.
Abner chuckled hoarsely. “That Lorne was a clever one. He got himself and Parrish out of town before Toogood could turn them in. No one knew where they went for those two years, but there were plenty of rumors. They came back with two kids though; kids who said they were from Bennington,” the old man said significantly.
It was obvious from Nyan’s blank face that he didn’t understand the reference to Bennington. “Not much for the Revolutionary War, are ya, Nyan? Seems a little strange considering your research subject,” Abner remarked slyly.
Since there was no answer that would deflect the old man’s suspicions, Nyan wisely remained quiet, waiting for Abner to fill him in.
“Bennington was the home of the Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen. The rumors were that Evan Lorne spent some of those two years trying to give Ethan military advice. Advice that was ignored, mind you.
“Stories in the family say that David would sometimes remark that the war would’ve ended sooner if only they’d listened to Evan. Apparently, no one took him seriously, though,” Abner said.
“Evan and David sound like interesting characters, Abner, but you still haven’t told me anything that would lead any reasonable person to the conclusions you’ve reached,” Nyan commented.
“I’m getting there,” he muttered. “Before Evan Lorne arrived in Putney, David Parrish was by all accounts a man of his time, a farmer that worked hard, went to church, and thought just like his neighbors. All of that changed after Lorne showed up, dressed oddly, speaking oddly, and claiming that he came from Canada.”
“Yes, this is all mentioned in Toogood’s journal,” Nyan agreed.
“I did a bit of research myself, Nyan. I couldn’t find any mention of an Evan Lorne in any area in Canada that was settled at the time,” Abner informed his visitor.
“Records are easily lost, Abner. Especially from that period of time.”
Abner went on as though Nyan hadn’t spoken, determined to tell Nyan two stories that had only been passed down through his branch of the family. “The last orphan they took in was Robert Slocombe. His mother died in childbirth when he was four, and his father during the war.”
Nodding, Nyan remarked, “Toogood said he was eight?”
“Yup, a scrawny eight, and wild as an Indian. He ended up married three times and he called his youngest daughter Bitsy. On his deathbed, he told Bitsy two stories, and made her swear she’d only tell her children,” he began.
“Who told you?” Nyan asked softly.
“My grandmother. The story was passed down from mother to child, but my parents died before she could tell my mother. My grandmother only had one child, and I didn’t have any,” he mourned.
Nyan was taken aback that the old man was willing to tell him, a stranger, a secret that had been held within his family for almost two hundred years.
“When Robert was nine years old, he found something near the family’s herb garden. Like a lot of little boys, he liked to dig. One day he found something - - unusual. He called it a coin, but instead of a king or something like that, it had blue and green lines shot throughout it. I think it was a communication device,” Abner speculated.
“Or maybe it was just an unusual coin,” Nyan countered. As he had no knowledge of the device, he didn’t realize the significance of the information.
“You ever hear tell of a coin like that in the 1700’s, Nyan? ‘Cause I never did, and I’ve looked,” he groused irritably.
Once again, Nyan remained quiet as he couldn’t disagree.
“When my grandmother told me the second story, she called it passing strange, though I will admit it only seems so when you consider how Lorne and Parrish ended up,” Abner said, eying Nyan to make sure he was paying attention.
“When Robert was fifteen, David got pneumonia. Evan was frantic, and he kept scraping bread mold into tea and forcing it down Parrish’s throat. The town had a doctor, but Evan refused to let him treat David.
“Robert was the only kid left in the house, the rest of them were married, and had built homes on David’s land. So, he wakes up one night after David had been sick for a week, and he hears them arguing.
“David’s just saying no over and over, and Evan’s begging him to let him go back for medicine. He kept saying he’d only be gone a minute or two, but David wouldn’t let him go. He said he was afraid Evan wouldn’t want to come back.
“Two years later, they both disappeared,” Abner finished.
“Where do you think Evan wanted to go?” Nyan asked.
Pointing to the painting, Abner replied, “To Atlantis.”
Nyan did an admirable job of hiding his shock. “May I examine the painting?”
Smiling smugly, Abner nodded permission. Nyan rose and asking for a step stool, moved the couch.
Not counting the ornate frame, Nyan estimated the painting measured approximately four feet long and two feet in height. The entire city was shown from the air, in the middle of an angry ocean.
The sky was filled with darkened clouds and flashes of lightening. The ocean was roiling with white water and enormous waves. It was a disturbingly moody painting.
Nyan had of course known about the super storm that Atlantis had weathered, and thought this was a very good representation. He moved closer to see the artist’s signature, and the words ‘Storm Over Atlantis’ right below.
Nyan was torn. After he’d met Abner, he’d asked Pearl about him. She informed him that her husband was one of Abner’s distant cousins, but not many people in town had anything to do with him since his wife had died. Most of his relatives in Putney were distant, and they considered him a bitter, cantankerous old man.
Abner cleared his throat and handed Nyan a framed drawing. It showed a beautifully exotic woman in a long split skirt and a tightly laced vest, slightly crouched and holding two long sticks. It was titled ‘Teyla Emmagan of Athos’. “The family always talked about how good looking Lorne was, and I always wondered if everyone from Atlantis was equally so.”
Nyan could have told him no, but the truth was, many of the people who had chosen to leave their world to find the lost city were in fact beautiful. He looked at the guarded expression in Abner’s eyes, and saw a small spark of hope there as well. He made a decision, based on empathy, sympathy, and pity.
Deliberately shutting off the tape recorder, Nyan guided the old man to the couch. “I will deny any of this till the day I die, Abner, and I promise you, if the time comes when I can tell you the whole truth, I will. I can’t say too much because I’d be breaking all kinds of laws. You aren’t totally right, but you aren’t totally wrong either.”
The relief that flooded Abner’s face let Nyan knew he’d made the right decision.
Nyan spent the rest of that day and the next taping all the other stories that had come down through time. He skillfully questioned the old man, eliciting every nuance of information that he could.
He negotiated the purchase of the painting, forcing Abner to accept a fair price when he would have given Nyan the painting for free. Abner would not part with the sketch of Teyla, however. He would only say it gave him hope for the future of humanity. Nyan left him his email address, as well as his home address when he left.
Before Nyan left Putney, two Airmen showed up to collect the painting to escort it back to Cheyenne Mountain. Armed with the name Daniel had provided him, Nyan left for New York, and then San Francisco. When he finally got back to Colorado Springs to brief General O’Neill and Dr. Jackson, he had as complete a picture as was possible with five weeks of research.
A little over five and a half years later, Nyan called Abner Lund to tell him to be sure to watch television that night. It was the last time he spoke with Abner. Six weeks later, the portrait of Teyla arrived at his house along with a letter informing Nyan of Mr. Lund’s death.
New York City, December 16, 1898
John held the reins to the chestnuts loosely. Rodney, at his side, as always, was wrapped in a warm woolen blanket, his nose turning red. John steered the sleigh, its waxed blades gliding easily over the two inches of snow.
Glancing at his miserable lover, John laughed. “Should I remind you that this was your idea?”
“Oh, shut up and keep your eyes on the road,” Rodney instructed. He couldn’t even argue with John; today had been his idea. He’d wanted to meet with Edison every time he made an improvement to his motion picture camera. Today, because the weather was so chill, West Side Drive was lightly populated and Thomas had insisted that John and Rodney appear in his film. The man had gone so far as to hire them a sleigh and team.
There were only a few brave souls in sleighs and carriages making their way up and down the wide, graceful road. Most other people were inside, sipping hot chocolate or indulging in a hot toddy. Rodney wished he were one of them. Instead he was in an open sleigh going back and forth and being forced to listen to large carriage wheels crunching through the snow. It was a sound that ran right through him and grated on every nerve he had.
Finally, Edison called a halt to the filming. Waving his arm, he flagged Sheppard and McKay down. “Excellent, gentlemen!” he exclaimed once the two men had stopped. “I think we’ve worked out a few bugs, Rodney. I’ll telephone you once I’ve processed the film. How much longer will you be in the city?”
“We’re almost done with our holiday shopping. We’ll be returning to the manor in a day or two,” John answered speaking loudly to accommodate the other man’s deafness. He helped Rodney climb off the rig, ignoring his lover’s grumbling.
They’d been in Manhattan for the past week and both men were anxious to be home. There had been a great deal of snow in Hastings-On-Hudson followed by a cold snap, and though men had been hired to clear the snow away, they worried about Sabina falling on slick icy paths.
“Very well, then. I will inform you of my progress. Enjoy the season, gentlemen,” he boomed.
“Yes, yes, you too. Perhaps you can improve on your design in nicer weather,” Rodney remarked.
“I shall endeavor to do so, Rodney,” Thomas said, with a wicked little wink in John’s direction. He took hold of the reins as he watched the two men head for the park’s exit.
He waited patiently for one of his assistants to come and relieve him of the horses. Thomas checked that his equipment had been well packed as the horses and sleigh were returned to the mews, his mind occupied with how to improve his motion picture camera.
“I want something hot to drink, preferably with rum,” Rodney whined. “And some stew.”
“Our valet told me the kitchens were preparing venison stew for the evening meal. I’m sure I can get you some as soon as we get back to the hotel,” John informed Rodney.
“It won’t be as good as Sabina’s,” Rodney complained.
“I know,” John agreed, his hand on the small of his lover’s back as he guided him toward the end of the long block and the waiting line of hacks.
The block was filled with venders selling their wares, and generally Rodney enjoyed stopping to browse the various carts. Today, he barely glanced at the equally miserable venders.
They were nearing the hacks when Rodney suddenly stopped short and then began stomping his way over to one of the venders with John hard on heels. The man’s cart was filled with paintings and drawings of various sizes, most being framed. Atop his cart sat a largish oil painting in a worn wooden frame. It was this painting that had caught Rodney’s attention.
John glanced at Rodney; alarmed to see he had paled dramatically. He grabbed hold of his elbow, worried that his lover might actually faint.
Rodney shook off John’s hand, and loomed over the diminutive man selling the art. He was excited, but trying for calm, and figuring he was missing calm by a country mile. “What’s your name?”
“Yakov, Yakov Goldberg,” the young man answered in a heavy Russian accent.
Rodney looked at the young man, realizing he was little more than a boy. A boy dressed in threadbare clothing, not at all suitable for the weather. He took a deep breath. “Hello, Yakov. How much are you asking for that painting?” Rodney inquired, pointing.
Yakov eyed John and Rodney’s expensive woolen overcoats and shoes. They both glowed with good health; health not often seen in the Bowery. Yakov himself was sallow, and overly thin. He rarely got enough to eat and he was always cold in the winter, and miserably hot in the summer.
“F-five dollars,” the boy stammered.
It was an outrageous sum for an old painting. Yakov often asked for a nickel or a dime more than his Uncle Isaak had priced the goods. He was building up a nest egg so that one day he would have enough money to strike out on his own. This painting had been bought for two dollars, and priced at three. Given the painting’s unusual subject matter, Yakov thought Isaak had been overly generous that day.
John hadn’t had time to see the painting until Rodney began talking to the boy. Once he saw it though, he understood his companion’s reaction. He already knew they would give the boy any price he wanted, but Rodney didn’t seem to be done questioning the boy.
“Where did you get the painting?” Rodney demanded.
Yakov sensed that there was more than two dollars to be made here, and the expression on his face gave away his thoughts. Before he could answer, John grasped his shoulder in a tight grip.
“If you tell him what he wants to know, I’ll give you twenty five dollars for the painting,” John bargained. “If I find out you lied to us, I promise to make your life very difficult.”
Yakov believed him. They were obviously wealthy. And in his world, as in most, wealth equaled power. Besides, with twenty-two extra dollars added to his already respectable nest egg, Yakov would be free to leave his uncle’s house and his many, many children. He was tired of being treated as little more than a servant by his uncle’s wife.
He stuck out his hand and sealed the bargain. “Six months ago, a young couple came in to sell the painting. They said they were moving west, and needed every dime they could get.”
“Do you have a name?” John demanded.
“Polly and Harris Parsons. The woman said the painting had been in her family for years. I don’t remember if her grandmother got it from her grandmother or her mother,” Yakov recalled. “She said, but it was a while ago.”
“Did they say where out west?” Rodney asked.
“I think she mentioned San Francisco.”
“San Francisco,” Rodney murmured. “Did they sell you anything else?”
“No, just the painting,” Yakov answered.
“John, give him his money,” Rodney requested.
John handed the boy the agreed sum, cautioning, “Remember, if I find out you lied to me, I’ll be back.”
“I’m here everyday except the Sabbath,” Yakov said.
Back in their hotel room, Rodney unwrapped the painting to closely examine it, something he didn’t have a chance to do on the street. In the shock of seeing the lost city in an old painting on a Manhattan street, he’d only seen the larger picture; that of Atlantis as viewed from a balcony. He hadn’t noticed the details that gave the painting its emotional impact. It was too close to reality to be a coincidence, and there was only one person that painted on Atlantis as far as Rodney knew.
Rodney carried the painting to the window. The sunlight was thin, but adequate for his purposes, certainly better than the laughable light the electric lamps provided. He found exactly what he thought he’d find, the initials E. L. The painting was dated 1780, with the words, Putney, Vermont beneath the initials and date.
“Crap,” Rodney muttered as he continued to examine the painting.
John joined him, sliding his arms around his lover. He hated that the city was intruding in his life once again. He examined the painting and startled when he saw the faces of two of the painted figures. They were seated at a table on a spacious balcony with two other men, all of them smiling and happy.
“That’s you and Sheppard,” John remarked.
“Yeah,” Rodney answered. “And the other two are General Jack O’Neill and Doctor Daniel Jackson.”
“I don’t understand, Rodney. How could something painted more than one hundred years ago be this accurate?”
Rodney’s face crumbled unhappily. “It’s possible that the man who painted this got stuck in the past.”
What would make you say that?” John inquired.
“Look at the initials, John. E. L. - - I’m sure they stand for Evan Lorne, Major Evan Lorne. He was put in charge of the military after . . . after Sheppard died. If they figured out how I traveled to the past, he’d be the one to come get me,” Rodney said unhappily.
“You have no way of knowing that for sure, Rodney,” John rasped, drawing his lover close. “And besides, how many members of the military died on Atlantis protecting the civilians? Isn’t that part of their job?”
“Yes, of course,” Rodney snapped, moving out of John’s arms. “In dangerous situations, fine. But, I’m here of my own free will. If Lorne got stuck in the past because of me . . . I just don’t want to be responsible for that.”
“Well, it seems to me that you don’t have much to say about it,” John commented.
“The device is still where we left it, right?”
“Yes,” John said guiltily. “Why? Are you planning to use it to go back and stop Lorne from using the other devices?” he asked angrily.
Rodney noted John’s closed off expression, and recognized his fear. “No, John, I’m not planning on using the device.” He held John close to him, feeling the slight tremors of anger and fear. “My life is here. With you and the boys and Sabina. I made my choice, John,” he whispered.
“Then why did you ask about the device?”
“Just thinking out loud. If Lorne did use one of the other discs, it’s possible he went to a different point in time, but he should have been able to get back home,” Rodney speculated.
“Unless he didn’t want to go home,” came the dry observation. “But if you’re worried, we can visit the lawyers tomorrow and have them look into it for you. We have a date and a place, after all.”
“That’s a great idea! Thank you, John,” Rodney said, relieved that some answers might be forthcoming.
The two men returned their attention back to the painting. Rodney suddenly saw something that had been cleverly hidden. It was like an optical illusion; invisible until it popped out and then it was impossible not to see. This particular optical illusion was woven into a border Lorne had painted at the bottom of the scene.
Ancient letters that looked like abstract symbols to most eyes resolved themselves into words for Rodney. He reached out and slowed traced the letters, wondering how the artist had meant them, and why Evan had felt the need to incorporate them in his work.
Recognizing the Ancient lettering, John asked, “What does it say?”
Rodney’s voice was soft when he answered. “The Lost Ones - - Lost In Time.”
Several years later, when San Francisco was hit with a massive earthquake, Rodney and John were saddened to learn that Polly Parsons was killed, leaving her husband and a young daughter behind.
They made sure that Harris Parsons had enough money to raise his child and restart his business.
Fifteen years after the earthquake, Carrie Parsons became engaged to a young man named Henry Lorne. At their wedding party, the young couple was astonished to find a gift of one thousand dollars in an envelope. The accompanying note only said, Good Luck, an old family friend.