She was high on a scaffold with brush and hose removing the last remnants of grime from the upper part of wall when the realisation hit her. She nearly fell. The characters, now clearly revealed beneath her labours, were not, she realised, alien to her. They were already in her memory; the language was already in her memory. She couldn’t hold it – yet. She couldn’t get a grip on it yet, but she would – she could see already that she would. All the language studies that went before – all the Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and early Cuneiform and even Ogam – were as of the scribbling’s of a child. What she was seeing on that wall, and would see on all the walls and ceilings yet to be so thoroughly cleaned, was the language of the Ancients – a language eighty thousand years in development. A language so full of piquant accuracy and charm as to be beyond the comprehension of any without her memory – without the memories of her forbears. She was alone. The loneliness hit her like sledgehammer. It hit her so hard she staggered and nearly fell from the gantry but recovered.
Her mind recovered as she realised she could never be alone – there was mother, there was Catherine, there were the Old Ones. She wasn’t alone but, she was nearing enlightenment and that threatened to be a lonely place. It was to be a critical turning point in her life. Her function becoming one of a medium, an interpreter – a conduit between the Ancients and modern society. She was to not only to familiarize herself with the language of the Ancients, she had already done that, but also to fully understand the culture that brought them so far along the road of human development. She needed to stare at the murals, at the tablets within them, and the writing and graphics that gave them the beauty and elegance she knew would be there. She needed to read, and to meditate, and reach those who would help her piece together the memories in order to learn the way – to open the path to the pool of life in which she must float, and to swim and dive in its limitless depths until the knowledge flowed through her, in and out of her, in such a way as to make her part of it – an intrinsic, essential element within it. To do this, to raise herself to that highest level of human intellect, she needed time. She needed all of the three years she asked of John and that would be only the beginning. That would be the starting point of her real purpose on the planet. Up until now she had been toying with the ideas, testing a concept here and there – from now on she would dedicate herself, entirely, to her true purpose.
Peter, Ben, and Bill continued to work together with some harmony – there was the occasional friction of course, principally between Bill and Peter, but it was always overcome under the ever present wisdom of Ben. They had established the source of the water in the city as to be a huge aquifer directly below the main construction but it was not carbonated; the water was drawn up by the Sun – by a huge solar pump that used the same principle as a vacuum coffee maker. Heat, in this case solar radiation, is used to displace water in a container through a one-way valve. Once the water has gone the heat is removed. When the container cools a vacuum is created which is used to draw more water from another container, in this case the aquifer, again, through a one-way valve. The process, as in all good science, is simple – the scale on which it operated though is staggering. Peter had calculated that the solar pump was moving upward of eight hundred cubic metres of water between eleven in the morning and three in afternoon during the winter months. “In summertime the volume would double, maybe triple,” he added. “It could support a population of twenty thousand.” That was more, much more, than any previous estimates of prehistoric communities but then all previous estimates were based on one, continual, path of human development. Despite popular belief she knew this was not the case. What she did not know, the question that had been burning in her mind for some time now, was how many times the path of human development had been broken. The last twelve thousand years were known. The period from the great flood, around 10,000 BCE, to the present day, had been examined, and is well understood by modern science but what of the twenty thousand years before that, and the twenty thousand before that? And before that, and on and on . . . How many major setbacks had there been along the path of human development? The answer was here – on these walls – in these chambers; in the language she was beginning to understand but she must have peace to concentrate. She must be free of distractions in order to sink into the deepest resources of her memory and make the connections. There was no other way. The Commander must be made to understand. She needed at least three years.
That her periods of meditation became longer and longer as the days sailed by went unnoticed by most of others because they, too, were totally immersed in their work. The exceptions were Ben, whose first duty was always the well being of the Matriarchy, and John Conway, who was avoiding physical involvement in order to retain perspective while insuring the project was not jeopardised by lack of men or materials. So it was to these two men that the first warnings of a threat to their security became apparent. They had each received reports of human activity fifty miles or so away in an area normally uninhabited.
“The Israelis never let up. They got Watchkeeper drones all over Iran and Syria. They don’t miss much.” The commander was quietly philosophic about the latest information he had received.
“They missed us,” Ben stated simply.
“Not for long young Benjamin. They’ll spot a footprint or a careless cigarette butt, just you see they will. Takes time is all. You better go take a look. You wont let ‘em see you.” It wasn’t a question. They agreed he should be dropped a few miles away from the last sighting that night in order to learn more.
Ben Finds Guards
He had expected to find tribesmen, Taliban, or hired thugs with cheap Kalashnikovs and poor shoes. What he actually found were well-equipped soldiers in Humvees. There were sentries, alert with radios, and men in sleeping bags strung between vehicles. He went closer to identify them, or at least hear their language, but they were quiet, business like – most were resting. For two hours he lay silent, not more than a hundred metres from their perimeter and was rewarded, eventually, by a brief conversation during a changing of guards. The accents were heavy, Turkish, Armenian, Iranian, he wasn’t sure, but the language was clear – They were Kurds. He was looking at about twenty front line, nationally motivated, troops.
He began edging back from their perimeter to reach higher ground before dawn. He’d been lucky to come so close without their knowledge but he wasn’t going to push it. These guys were good; they would pick up on movement so close to them. After an hour of tedious shuffling reward he felt confident enough to stand and walk quickly up, and around, a small hill where he could rest and take time to consider his options. His first thought, that they were a Kurdish, breakaway faction of the Revolutionary Guard, he dismissed because of their top line equipment. They might be Kurdish Rebels on reconnaissance but that smacked of coincidence; he didn’t accept coincidence. No, chances are they are Kurds trained and equipped by CIA to keep an eye on the Commander. If he fed this information to John Conway he would probably send in an overwhelmingly destructive force to nip it in the bud. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want to piss off the CIA because they might decide to hit back with another platoon – several platoons just to be sure and in no time there would be an escalation. He definitely didn’t want that because although there would be no outcry, they shouldn’t be there in the first place, things could get out of hand and the next thing you know the city would be overrun and irreplaceable treasures lost. He could report the sighting as wandering goat herders, or local Taliban on the rampage, but that would produce the same reaction in John Conway. For the moment he would do nothing save watch, learn, and cover his tracks.
Meira reading Ancients’ Language
There had been no difficulty with Catherine, or Amia’s, memories beyond that of making the connections but reading their language was an entirely different experience. She recognised the characters, and she understood the words they formed, but not the meaning. The meaning was not clear from the words or the visual references. She was missing something. She was, she surmised, missing a lot because this language was so sophisticated, so immensely mature, it would not be simple to comprehend. Staring at the ceramic glaze over the towering wall in one of the middle chambers she let her mind drift to the nature of that glaze – of how such a large surface could have been fired as if in an oven. A solar reflector must have been positioned here, in this chamber, and the sunlight had to have been brought in to hit the reflector, which would have to have been portable – both to capture the sunlight and to concentrate the energy where needed. To raise such a large mass to high temperature would have needed either a large reflector, or a finely controlled one working small areas at a time. There had been some evidence of this in the ceramic statues found in Cambodia which were life size, and life shaped, with beautiful colours preserved under the glaze. The archaeological community had yet to accepted that the glaze was solar fired but it just had to be. These walls dispelled any doubt. The Sun was the only possible source of the energy needed to glaze such large surface areas.
She slipped into a meditative trance where Fiona’s images began to fill mind but they were not clear. She could make the connections; the synapses were melding together but still there was no clarity. Then were no images. She couldn’t understand, or could she? Maybe there was something. Yes there was definitely something – something very big. There was something larger than the towering wall filling her vision. There was something enormous. She couldn’t see it because it was gigantic.
She let go, drifting further, until the scale of it was no longer apparent. It was no longer apparent because she had entered into it. She was looking at more than a language; she was inside a culture. She was part of pre-history and she, too, was huge. Everyone was huge. Everyone was more than eight feet high with clear skin and bright, piercing eyes – eyes like her grandmothers – eyes like hers. Movement was easy, powerful, up the stairs, along the corridors, down into the lower chambers where the air was cool, damp, and moist on her skin. People were passing, working she thought, but it wasn’t clear what they were doing. Speech was rare. People were quiet. She didn’t understand. She couldn’t get a grip. She needed to rest. She needed time for all those memories to form a whole but they wouldn’t let go. She couldn’t shut down; the exercise had a life of its own. More people came – big people moving purposely with clear, very white, eyes that held steady. These were her people. These were her people of eighty thousand years ago before – before what? What happened?
She wanted to back away – allow her mind to rest. It wouldn’t let go. She had a bear in a trap and it wouldn’t let her go. Then the music started. There was music in her head; it was in the language. That was it. It wasn’t just a language; it was music. It was melody and rhythm and song. It was communication of the highest order that rose to heights beyond her perspective. She was drowning in it because she had yet to learn to swim but she would; she didn’t know the strokes but would learn. She would learn in a way she had never before learned. She would learn with mind and body and more than that. More than that was soul, spirit, faith . . . she didn’t know. She couldn’t know but she would; she would – she would know.
*It was cooler when she awoke – cooler than when she dropped into sleep but not cold. Cold was not a factor – clarity was. There was clarity where previously there was grey, undetermined, searching. That was gone. The search was over? No, no, the search for knowledge never stopped. It couldn’t be over – could it?
“You been gone a long time.” The voice of John Conway came from a need and a wish.
She turned to see him smaller than before in well made, expensive, trousers of fine green and grey wool with a polished brown belt that matched soft leather shoes over similar green socks that bore dust of the desert. He was tired from travel and impatient for knowledge. “You’ll live another thirty years Commander, and learn a lot, but you must not kill those Mesopotamian people. Killing shortens your life.”
“Too late for that. Can’t have dangerous loose ends like that about. Things get in your way you have to move ‘em. Makes sense that.”
Things – he saw them as things. Such a clever man with such a simple mind. How long mother? How long before we can come back?