Ben had found the cold room on the third floor just behind the place where they decided to store and prepare their food. The cooking was done overnight in the oven created when the huge reflective doors are closed to retain the heat stored in the obsidian block. They discovered that within many of the walls were large cavities in which water flowed via, either gravity, or the vacuum, Moka, effect, and was giving up its heat in slow evaporation because of the heat in the stone. The coolest places in the city were invariably near some of the hottest because heat, generated by the Sun, was the primary source of energy and energy was needed to ventilate, cool, cook, and to transport water and, occasionally, other goods. Gravity helped, and the latent heat of evaporation was used to good effect, but all energy came through direct solar radiation
During the day light found its way into every corridor and corner via carefully positioned shafts, polished surfaces, and mirrors. There was glass, Ben discovered, in some of the piles of remaining ash but most had been washed away when they hosed the floors, walls, and ceilings to rid themselves of fluorine. At night they were limited by the moon and starlight which, although effectively used, did not provide for all their needs.
“Can we make glass?” Ben asked over their evening meal.
“We can,” Meira declared, “but we won’t.” The others looked up, demanding more. “We can,” she responded, noting she could not neglect explanation with these men. “We can, given the materials immediately available, labour long to produce crude glass to provide some relief to our darkness but it would be an affront.”
“An affront?” Peter was wide eyed. “An affront to who?”
“Whom, Peter, to whom. It would be an affront to the previous inhabitants who filled this city. It would be an affront to the artisans who covered these walls and ceiling, and lined the light shafts with beautiful glasses – with highly reflective, oxide, glasses down the shafts and the beautiful ceramic glasses used to decorate the walls and ceilings and to seal their knowledge into the walls. They had fused glasses for solar furnace work, soda-lime glass for cook pots, medicines and laboratory work, they had flexible glasses and they had brittle, crystal glasses. We should not be party to desecration of this beautiful city with crudities.”
The men looked at each other, read the eyes, and smiled at the revelation they had just witnessed. There was not only wisdom in Meira McMahon – there was passion, and a strong sense of propriety.
“How best,” Ben began, “how best, do you think, Peter and I can be of service?”
Peter looked up – wondering where this was going.
“That Peter and I are in a unique place with a unique person under severely restrictive conditions has not escaped us. So I ask, ‘What can we do for the very best of humanity?”
Meira replied. “I have given a great deal of thought to that. What you are doing is good use of what time we have here – who knows how long that will be. You are learning, hands on learning, and there’s no better way, how to ensure our wellbeing in an environment devoid of fossil fuels, and Peter is learning, again hands on, of the engineering and architecture that houses us and probably housed millions before. I am learning at a rate I would not have considered possible a week ago but I have to continue. There is no other priority – sorry if that sounds arrogant but it’s the truth. I’m blessed with the memories of my ancestors which allows me to comprehend what is recorded here. When the time comes to leave I will be equipped to help mankind through this awful period of constant war that is already twelve thousand years in the making. Changes are peeking through the smoke and dust of constant destruction. Women are exerting greater influence on governments. Environmental considerations are at least being heard – even if they have yet to be acted upon. Education is more pervasive than a hundred years ago and, with the exponential expansion of the Internet, will rapidly engulf all societies. With education comes a moratorium on mindless conflict. If we can end the lunatic behaviour of religious extremists we will be well on our way to a more directed society. When mankind stops its dedication to conflict, to war, it turns to learning and living longer and more usefully. That is where we want to direct ourselves. That is where we will begin to understand how best to function.
“So you ask the right question Ben,” she looked up. “The best I can answer is to say that you two can be of great service by doing what your are doing – by asking and answering and pushing me, and each other. If you do that I can continue my studies safe in your care. When it’s dark, when the Sun leaves us without eyes, I will talk, and sing, in the hope of imparting some of what I am learning.
“We need a banjo and a flute then,” Peter stood as he spoke. “Meanwhile I’m off for a ride on the magic elevator.”