Chapter 21a


Stonehenge, November 10, 10 AM


Ivan drove them for several miles and after dark found a field with a convenient roll of hay to park behind.  Dawn brought the hazard of renewed pursuit.  They needed to get south, but the enemy probably knew that.  Going north seemed only to prolong their exposure.  Heading east toward London meant the probability of meeting reinforcements coming out from that city.


So they started westward, meandering down country lanes, looking for a place to hide out.  But the countryside was not helpful.  Trees and fields were bare.  Villages were tight little places where any outsider would be recognized.  Finally Ivan decided to turn back toward the line.  As they drove they began to see signs for Stonehenge. 


By now the motorcycles would be scouring the land, inquiring into every shed and every copse of trees, darting behind buildings and seeming no more conspicuous than any other group of motorcycles making a nuisance of themselves.  It was only a matter of time before they found the car.  Stonehenge offered some benefits.  For one thing, it was on the wide open space of Salisbury Plain, where any approach would be obvious far away.  In the second place there was no shelter, so it was not an obvious retreat.  And finally there could be worse places to hide than among a sea of tourists and cars.


They arrived and found a car park.  Ivan got out and stood on a low wall listening.  There was no sound of pursuit.  He looked over toward the monument.  Rows of tourists were flocking around, separated from the great stone edifice by a low fence.  The tourists took snapshots and gazed in awe at the mighty stones set up before the pyramids were sketched in the sand. 


The monument area was complex, but the most memorable feature is the ring of huge monoliths carved from sarcen.  They were cleanly finished with sides that bulge slightly to correct for the optical distortion that occurs when the eye looked at them through the unusual perspective occasioned by their enormous size.  Around the top had once run a complete ring of horizontal stones, carefully carve and notched to fit into each other as well as to fit projections on the tops of the verticals.  It had been to last, and last it had.


As an observatory for seasonal changes of the sun, it was far too elaborate.  It represented an enormous expenditure of energy.  It would have made more sense to build a sturdy wood frame that would last a few decades and then replace it as required.  That would have taken less effort even if the program had been continued to the present than what it took even to raise one of the megaliths to the vertical, not to mention slotting the top ones into place, not to mention ... the list of engineering problems was long.


That did suggest that there was some ritual element to it.  The builders probably had a host of wooden structures for any practical use.  This one must have been built in celebration.


There are things it would have revealed that a less permanent one would not have.  The axis of the earth wobbles over time, perhaps a degree in a generation, thirty degrees in a thousand years.  A wooden structure could never measure it.  But this mighty instrument, scorning millennia as a man might scorn a decade, would facilitate the measurement.  Whether this was part of the original intent can never be known.  They were people of no written record.


A covey of American hippies had managed to get permission to experience the wondrous place directly.  They sat apart in poses of thought or meditation or wandered among the stones pointing out a carved Bronze Age dagger here or a significant feature of the observatory there.  One was reclined against a rock whistling, “Danny Boy.”


A field of barley was nearby.  Although the season was late and other fields had been reduced to stubble, this one had not been harvested.  The reason was evident.  This year it contained a crop circle.  Someone had persuaded the farmer not to harvest his field because of the unusual circumstance of the circle appearing so close to Stonehenge.


Modern agriculture is so efficient and the harvests so bountiful that it is not rare for a field of grain to experience crop fall.  The weight of the grain overbalances the strength of the stem, and the plant falls.  If it strikes an adjacent plant, the two can go down together in knock-down fashion.  It is a common enough thing to see fields in full growth, on the very cusp of harvest, patches up to several feet across where the crop has fallen and is useless.


The actual loss to the harvest is usually trivial, and any farmer knows that it is better to have a harvest that is ten percent larger even if it means losing a fraction of a percent because the grain in some places was pushed beyond its capability. 


But many years ago it began to be noticed that some crop falls formed perfect circles.  Natural explanations were invented, but the circles were too perfect.  Then slowly the circles began to be multiple, then joined, then arranged in patterns and connected by tracks.


The symmetry, the beauty and the mystery of the crop circles gathered much attention as the phenomenon spread world wide.  But it always seemed most probable that there were people behind it.  For one thing, no other explanation seemed promising at all.  For another thing the crop circles seemed to appear only in countries where Japanese or English was spoken.


It was always obvious that the crop circles resembled in form, size and spirit the great stone circles themselves.  They occurred most commonly in the same Wessex area of England.  And assuming human agency, they were made for exactly the same reason using the same technique.  In other words nobody had the foggiest idea.  It could be prank or ritual or could have some other purpose.  Indeed most likely different ones were made for different reasons using different means. 


The crop circle lay stark and puzzling in the barley field.  It was one of the elaborate designs of later years.  It was seven larger circles intersecting with five smaller.  Lanes radiated out in a pentagonal fashion and then curved back in to become the apices of triangles.


It was the design of an absolute genius, as enigmatic as it was pleasant.  The technique of laying it out alone was both intriguing and astonishing. 


But best of all, there were no black cloaks or motorcycles skulking around in it.


Relieved a little, Ivan made his way back to where the others waited in the car.  As he approached, he noticed that some men were taking an interest.  So he got in and started to move the car.  At once there were black cloaks everywhere.  A crowd rushed the car.


Ivan spun it around and wove through the car park to the exit.  The attackers had pulled two cars together to block it.  He doubled back and headed to the underground passage that took tourists under the road from the car park to the monument.  The horn blared deafening in the concrete passage.  Tourists hurled themselves against the walls as the car bulled its way through.  As they pulled out the far side Ivan could see another car starting through the passage after them.


Now they were weaving among people, who were only too eager to get out of the way but could not see what was happening until almost too late.  Ivan aimed at the fence that encouraged people to stay on the path.  He hit the post to bring down the chain and then roared out onto the vast empty expanse of Salisbury Plain.  Behind there were cars fanning out in pursuit. 


The horizon spread its beckoning arms, but it was clear they were being overtaken.  Ivan spun the car around and almost flipped it over while the others held on for dear life.  He charged the center of the approaching motorized skirmish line.  He made for the center car, but it made no sign of flinching.  Too late Ivan put the wheel over, and the other car managed to tag them on a fender.  The tire howled as the rubber worked against metal.


Ivan drove toward the barley field.  The car cut a blatant swath though the crop and slowed considerably.  Then they were in the crop circle itself.  The slick, hard husk of the fallen grass gave little traction.  They slewed around and drifted sideways into the grass repeatedly. 


There was a car behind them and now one swung around a bend ahead of them.  Ivan took a turn down another lane and cut across a circle.  Just too late, he changed course again at the next intersection. 


“Seconds,” Ivan thought.  “Give me three seconds when they can’t see us, and I will leave them wondering which trail to hunt through this field.”  He was already breaking down swaths that would confuse the pursuers, but it was all in vain to do it in plain view.


Then Ivan realized that the other cars were not simply chasing him.  They were deliberately taking down crop as well for a clearer field of view.  That was slowing them down, but slowly eating up the refuge.  Ivan turned into the wall of barley and broke into the open again.  


A car came up and side swiped them.  Ivan turned, braked and ducked behind it, but now there were cars on both sides and others were pulling ahead.  They were approaching the stone monument itself.  Ivan tried to enter to find some sort of shelter among the stones, but the chain fouled the front bumper, and the other cars crowded in forcing them to a halt.  Ivan, Tracy and Jon vaulted through the open windows as the black robed attackers poured out of their cars.


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