Babylon rising 2 the sec.., p.1
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       Babylon Rising 2. The Secret on Ararat, p.1

         Part #2 of Babylon Rising series by Tim LaHaye
Babylon Rising 2. The Secret on Ararat

  Babylon Rising: The Secret on Ararat

  Bob Phillips

  Tim Lahaye

  DEDICATED TO the memory of famed astronaut

  Colonel James Irwin, who walked on the moon in 1971.

  His faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible caused him

  to search diligently during the 1980s for the ever-elusive

  Ark of Noah, which many believe will one day be found

  high in the rugged mountain peaks of Ararat, where it has

  been preserved in ice for about five thousand years-waiting

  for someone like him to locate what many expect will be

  "the greatest archaeological discovery of all time."


  Even before the Great Earthquake of 1840, which blew out close to a third of the upper regions of Mount Ararat, sightings of the remains of Noah's Ark had been reported. Scores of credible people claim to have seen it, from mountain people who live in the area to professional explorers. There is credible evidence that at least one hundred fifty White Russian soldiers saw and examined it in 1917, just prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. The evidence for the preservation of that irrefutable proof of the Bible story of Noah and his family preserving humanity could well be the most important archaeological discovery of all time.

  Yet when all the stories are assembled there is a frightening thread that weaves through them. There must be a sinister force that has opposed all the searchers' valiant efforts up to the present from seeing the light of day. But we believe the tempo of exploration is heating up and that we may indeed be the generation that will finally reveal Noah's Ark for all the world to see.

  Michael Murphy, noted archaeologist of Babylon Rising fame, will, in this book The Secret on Ararat , lead the most perilous expedition to date. One that could provide another exciting step in the fulfillment of prophecies of the end time ... which Jesus Christ predicted would be like "the days of Noah." Can anyone seriously doubt that society today is very similar to the pre-flood days of Noah?



  BREATHE. He desperately needed to breathe. But he knew instinctively that if he opened his mouth to try and suck in a breath, he would die.

  Gritting his teeth fiercely, Murphy opened his eyes instead. And a pair of yellow, animal eyes stared back. Then a wildly gaping jaw came into focus through the greenish gloom, pointed teeth bared in a silent snarl. Murphy reached out, expecting the teeth to clamp down on his hand, but the dog face had disappeared, sucked back into the watery darkness.

  It was no good. He had to get some air into his lungs before they burst. He turned his face upward, toward the feeble light, and after an agonizing few seconds during which he had the horrifying sense that he was sinking, not rising, his head broke the surface.

  He sucked in a huge, spluttering breath, simultaneously grabbing on to the narrow stone ledge that projected from


  the side of the pit. Resting his head against the jagged rock, he could feel something warm mingling with the freezing water. Blood. As the pain suddenly hit him, a wild carousel of thoughts started racing round his brain.

  Laura . He would never see her again. She wouldn't even know he had died here, in this remote, godforsaken place. She would never know his last thoughts had been about her.

  Then he remembered. Laura was dead. She'd died in his arms.

  And now he was about to join her. With that thought, his body seemed to relax, accepting its fate, and he felt himself slipping back into the surging torrent.

  No! He couldn't give up. He couldn't let the crazy old man win at last. He had to find a way out.

  But first he had to find those puppies.

  Clutching the ledge with both hands, Murphy took a series of quick, deep breaths, hyperventilating to force as much oxygen as possible into his lungs. He'd done enough cave diving to know he could stay under a full two minutes if he had to. But that was under ideal conditions. Right now he had to contend with the effects of shock, blood loss, and bone-shaking cold--all the while trying to find two little dogs somewhere in a swirling maelstrom. As he let himself slip back under the freezing water, he wondered--not for the first time--how he managed to get himself into these messes.

  The answer was simple. One word: Methuselah .

  * * *


  Murphy had been making his way carefully through the cave, fanning his flashlight across the dank black walls, when he found himself standing not on loose shale but what felt like solid wooden planks. Ever alert to tricks and traps, Murphy instinctively reacted as if he'd just stepped onto a tray of burning coals--but before he could leap aside, the trapdoor sprang open. As he felt himself plunging into the void, a familiar cackling laugh shattered the silence, echoing crazily off the rock walls.

  "Welcome to the game, Murphy! Get out of this one if you can!"

  As Murphy cartwheeled through space, his brain was still trying to come up with a suitable response. But all that came out was a grunt as he slammed into the ground like a bag of cement and the air was punched out of his lungs, before the impact flung him sideways and his head connected with a boulder. For a moment all was black, buzzing darkness. Then he raised himself up on his hands and knees and his senses returned one by one: He could feel the damp grit between his fingers; he could taste it in his mouth; he could smell stagnant water; he could dimly make out the shadowy walls of the pit he'd fallen into.

  And he could hear the fretful whining of what sounded like two cold, wet--and very scared--little dogs.

  He turned toward the sound and there they were, shivering together on a narrow ledge. A pair of German shepherd puppies. Murphy shook his head: He always tried to prepare himself for anything where Methuselah was concerned, but what were a couple of puppies doing


  in the middle of an underground cave complex miles from anywhere? Could they have gotten lost and somehow wandered this far from the surface? He didn't think so. Much more likely they were there because Methuselah had put them there.

  They were part of the game.

  Fighting his natural instinct to gather the bedraggled pups tightly in his arms and tell them everything was going to be okay, he approached the ledge cautiously. They looked so helpless. But that didn't mean harmless. Nothing in Methuselah's games was harmless, and if he had put them there for Murphy to find, then something about the dogs was out of whack. He just had to figure out what.

  Just then the steady dripping sound that had been nagging away at the back of Murphy's consciousness since he landed in the pit started to get louder. He turned in the direction of the noise and suddenly it became a roaring, as a huge wave of water surged through a narrow gap in the rocks. In a second a frothing tide was tugging at his ankles, pulling him off balance. Forgetting Methuselah's mind games, he pushed himself back toward the ledge, scooped up the puppies, and stuffed them under his jacket. His eyes darted round the walls of the pit, looking for anything that would help him find a way out, as the rising water swirled around his chest. The puppies were just a diversion, he thought bitterly, fighting to keep his footing. He hadn't spotted the real danger until it was too late. "Don't worry, fellas, I'll get you out of here," he assured them with more confidence than he felt. Then the torrent lifted him off his feet and the panicking dogs squirmed out of his jacket.


  Fighting to keep his head above the surface, he grabbed for them, but his fingers closed on icy water and then he too was engulfed, spinning out of control like a bunch of wet clothes in a Laundromat washer.

  He closed his eyes, and even as his lungs started hungrily demanding air, he tried to find a calm place in his mind where he could thi
nk. He checked through his options. The water would soon reach the level of the trapdoor, which was no doubt secured against escape. So, search for another way out under the water, or look for the puppies again before they drowned? If he tried to find a way out on his own, the puppies would be dead by the time he found it. If he tried to save the puppies first, he'd probably wind up too exhausted to find a way out. If there was a way out.

  So much for his options.

  The only shred of hope he could cling to was the fact that this was a game. And a game, however deadly, still had rules.

  But there was no way he could figure them out while his lungs were screaming and his thought processes were beginning to go fuzzy due to lack of oxygen.

  Get some air. Then go after those puppies. If he was still alive after that, maybe God would give him some inspiration.

  When Murphy walked into the lab, he was greeted by the sight of a young woman bent over a workbench, her jet-black hair, tied back in a ponytail, making a stark contrast with her crisp white lab coat as she scrutinized a sheet of parchment. She didn't look up as the


  door clicked shut behind him, and he stood for a moment, smiling at the expression of fierce concentration on her face.

  "What are you grinning at, Professor?" she asked, her eyes never leaving the parchment.

  "Nothing, Shari. Nothing at all. It's just nice to see someone so absorbed in their work, is all."

  She gave a short "hmph," still not looking up, and Murphy's smile broadened. Shari Nelson was one of the top students in his biblical archaeology class at Preston University, and for almost two years she had been his part-time research assistant. In that time he'd come to appreciate her passion for the subject, her limitless capacity for hard work, and her sharp intelligence. But most of all, he valued her warm and generous spirit. She might be pretending to ignore him right now, but they'd been through enough tragedy and heartache together in the past year, with the deaths of his wife and her brother still painful every hour of every day, for him to know that she would drop everything--even a fascinating ancient parchment like the one she was studying--if he needed her.

  "So what's up, Shari? Did the results from the carbon-dating tests on our little pottery fragment come in?"

  "Not yet," Shari replied, returning the parchment to the clear plastic container on the bench. "But something has definitely arrived for you." She gestured toward a large white envelope with the purple and orange lettering of Federal Express.

  Shari watched eagerly as Murphy picked up the package. Clearly she'd had a hard time containing her


  curiosity while she waited for Murphy to arrive at the lab.

  "Strange," he mused. "No return address. Just Babylon . Doesn't look like it went through the usual FedEx mailing process." He heard Shari gasp. Babylon, she knew all too well, could only mean one thing: a whole heap of trouble.

  Murphy carefully opened the envelope and shook the contents--a smaller envelope with the words Professor Murphy printed in heavy marker and a xeroxed page from a map--out onto the workbench. He glanced at the map, then opened the second envelope. Inside was an index card with three words typed on it.


  He handed it to Shari while he examined the map. A route had been marked in pink felt-tip from Raleigh, moving west, across the border into Tennessee. Where the snaking line stopped, there were an X and four barely legible words written in a spidery scrawl:

  "Cave of the Waters . Mean anything to you, Shari?"

  "It sounds like somewhere you definitely don't want to go," she replied firmly.

  He winced. Exactly what Laura would have said. Same tone of voice, even.

  "It's coming back to me. I've heard of this place. It's in the Great Smoky Mountains ... past Asheville, somewhere between Waynesville and Bryson City." If he remembered it right, the cave was discovered in the early 1900s but had never been fully explored, because the high water table in the area--not to mention at least


  three underground streams that ran through it--caused the chambers to flood periodically. It was supposed to contain a vast labyrinth of passageways, but no one knew how far they extended. Caving expeditions had been officially discouraged after three cavers were lost without a trace in the early seventies.

  "Okay, so we've got directions to a cave. Now, what about the message on the card? What do you make of it, Shari?"

  She repeated the words. "Chemar. Zepheth. Kopher . It's Hebrew. No problem there. But beyond that it's got me stumped. Does it have something to do with Babylon?"

  "It wouldn't surprise me," he said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "But right now it doesn't mean any more to me than it does to you."

  "And there's no signature anywhere, and no return address. So how can we find out who sent this?"

  Murphy gave a half-smile. "Come on, Shari. A mysterious message in an ancient language? A set of directions to a remote spot? Babylon? He didn't really need to sign it, did he?"

  Shari sighed. "I guess not. I was just hoping ... you know, that it might be something else. Something innocent. Not one of these crazy games where you--"

  She could tell Murphy wasn't listening anymore. He was studying the map intently, already halfway there. Her heart sank as she realized there was nothing she could do to stop him.

  All she could do now was pray.

  * * *


  It had been a beautiful drive from Winston-Salem past Lake Hickory. He'd left before sunup and covered the 280 miles in good time. Now the bright sunshine at his back was giving way to a sharp chill as he made his way farther into the mountains with their thick covering of majestic oaks and pine. He stopped to check the map again and turned down a dirt road, which bumped along for a hundred yards or so before he reached a fork. He stopped again. This time the map didn't help. Frowning, he laid it on the dash and stepped out onto the sunbaked dirt. He looked in both directions. Both roads snaked into the trees in similar fashion. Nothing to choose there.

  What was it Yogi Berra used to say?

  When you come to a fork in the road, take it .

  He shook his head. Thanks, Yogi. You're a big help . Then something caught his eye in the thick weeds at the side of the road. He knelt down and cleared away the foliage from a rusting sign. The yellow paint was almost gone, but he could just make out the words. CAVE OF THE WATERS. Then something else, in red paint this time. DANGER.

  He carefully raised the sign and stuck it firmly back in the ground. It seemed to be pointing left. "I haven't even got there yet, and already you're playing games, old man," he muttered, getting back in the car and slamming the door shut. He revved the engine and turned up the narrow track.

  It took another half hour to arrive at the cave entrance. At first, as the dirt track came to an abrupt stop in front of a huge oak, Murphy suspected another of Methuselah's tricks. Beyond the oak, the mountainside


  rose steeply, covered with dense undergrowth. There was no sign to tell him he was at the right place. Searching for a sign to indicate where he was supposed to go, he felt his scalp begin to prickle as the reality of the situation struck him. He was alone. Unarmed. Miles from the nearest habitation. At the invitation of a madman who had tried to kill him on several previous occasions and who was probably watching him from some hideaway on the mountain at this very moment. He could almost feel the crosshairs moving over his heart.

  When you put it like that it didn't sound good.

  But he'd come too far now to think of turning back, and he trusted in God that he was doing the right thing. After all, this might be a game, but the stakes were high. For a biblical archaeologist such as himself, they couldn't be any higher.

  He scanned the mountainside, looking for any irregularity that would indicate the entrance to the cave, and his eyes caught a glint of metal amid the rocks and scrawny bushes. He squinted into the glare and tried to focus on the spot. There was something,
definitely. Whether it was the cave was another matter, but what choice did he have? He hefted his backpack and started up the slope.

  Twenty minutes later he was standing on a horizontal outcrop, wiping the sweat from his eyes and trying to catch his breath. In front of him was a tangle of wire--what had clearly once been a chain-link fence designed to seal off the gaping hole in the rock. This was what had caught his eye from the bottom of the mountain. He crouched down and gingerly eased himself around the wire, stepping into the mouth of the cave.


  He pulled his flashlight out of his backpack and switched it on. The two cardinal rules of cave exploration came unbidden into his mind: Never cave alone, and never cave without three sources of light. And, I guess you could add, never enter a cave when you know there's a psycho lurking in there somewhere , he thought.

  Although the cave entrance was relatively wide, it quickly narrowed, and Murphy soon had to crawl on his hands and knees over the floor of loose stones and grit. After a few minutes of gentle twists and turns, the only light he could see was the beam of his torch, and the familiar thrill, a unique mix of anxiety and excitement that all speleologists experience on entering a new cave system, took over. It had been years since he'd been caving, but the smell of damp limestone and the instant adrenaline surge reminded him of caving holidays with Laura in Mexico--and particularly the extraordinary Flint-Mammoth Cave System in Kentucky. It was said to be over 224 miles long--the longest in the world--and while they'd covered only a fraction of it, the sense of infinite depth was awesome. If you kept going, you could imagine you might eventually reach hell itself. But that wasn't the deepest cave. That distinction belonged to the Gouffre Jean Bernard in France, which wound its way 4,600 feet below the earth. Every year they'd planned on making the expedition, and every year they'd never quite managed to find the time in their hectic lives of teaching and digging for artifacts. And then ...

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