An excerpt from Book 2 (unnamed), narrated by Cyrus on his trip to a recent meteorite crater.

Few roads led to this remote village.  The bus navigated the hills by following a dry river bed.  Before even seeing the crater, I knew when we had arrived.  Not only did a score of tents and trucks bear witness to the event, but a noxious odor had permeated the landing site.

At the center of the heavenly visitor’s footprint, the impact of the disintegrated particles formed a minor dimple in the earth, at least thirteen meters in diameter.  The resulting airburst caused collateral damage, a circle of bare soil which stretched on for perhaps a kilometer.

I overheard chatter between our interpreter and the indigenous population telling bizarre stories of foreigners arriving to collect rocks, soil samples, and things less lucrative than artifacts one might normally loot.

As I walked to the edge of the crater, I felt a warm spot behind my eyes, a swelling of background knowledge before the burst of realization, a bright point in the overwhelming void.  Around the mud rim I saw others surveying the damage, but one man captured me with his austere face.

The man returned my wide-eyed look with a smile.  He seemed to recognize me despite my bristly beard, ragged hair and local attire.  He yelled, “Proteus?!  My dear old boy, what pleasant fate brings you this way?”

“You’re mistaken,” I said.

On hearing my voice, he examined me again, squinting his eyes.  “I apologize.  I thought you were …”

“No.  But I know him.  Who is he to you?”

His eyes opened.  “He … he once called me a mentor turned misfit.”

I instantly knew and confessed my awareness.  “Ah, Mithras.  My brother described you precisely.”

Mithras had recruited my brother because of his obvious talents, but as they both interfered with the schemes of secret societies, they mutually agreed to part ways.  Mithras started his own biomedical research facility in Singapore.  Proteus obeyed his wanderlust and serendipitously discovered a lost Hopi artifact to hasten the beginning of the Fifth World.

Mithras answered, “So, you must be Cyrus, a near double of my friend Proteus.  You didn’t answer my question.  What brings you here?”

“This impact, obviously.”

“Yes, is it not marvelous?  The meteorite was mostly stone, chondrite.  You can see remnants everywhere.  The smell you notice is from the arsenic in the soil, released after the heat from the impact boiled the groundwater.  Don’t worry, although the locals became sick earlier on, it’s not at dangerous levels anymore.  My team has already gathered samples, so there is no reason to collect anything.  I came back here just to, ah, well, outside the impediments of official business, ah, walk in the fingerprints of God.”

I smiled.  “I’m sure Proteus enjoyed your poetic metaphors.  But samples?  When did you stop working on viruses and begin venturing into astrophysics?”

“I haven’t.  Research into viruses has led me here.  Where do you think these things came from?”

My left eye twitched.

“Ah, what a poor poker face.  You don’t have to pretend that you haven’t stumbled upon the same theory.  Scientists, for decades, have tried to recreate the so-called primordial soup—the basic elements of life: water, carbon, electricity.  They have failed in every aspect.  They cannot even manufacture simple nuclear proteins, yet they expect us to believe that it came about accidentally?

“No, my friend, the catalyst for life on earth came from above.  Meteorites from Mars, asteroids, even comets from beyond the Oort Cloud, brought the basic elements of life here—hydrocarbons that synthesized to form the first amino acids.  Come back to my lab.  We can discuss it there.”

“I can’t.  Proteus.  I’m here to find him.  He’s lost.”

“Lost?  I think not.  He will return when he finishes his mission.”

“Is there a finish to the mission?”

“Rarely.  He used to say there are no ends, only beginnings.”

Mithras nodded.  “Like the beginning of a new research project to gather data on this chondrite meteorite.  I’m anticipating that I’ll have to arrange for funding.  Come back to my lab.  You’ll be glad you did.”

I hesitated.  He held out his hand to shake.  “To Destiny.  There’s no sense in averting this adventure that Proteus brought you into.”

We matched hands on that.

As we walked to his Jeep Wrangler, he discussed more possibilities.  “The locals say that a man dressed in American clothing has been looting the site, taking impact fragments.  Could be our Proteus, no?”