Meira returned to the city and went immediately to the central chamber where she sat on the floor squarely in the middle of its towering grandeur. Anima came so quickly Meira found herself exploring her memory almost as if it were her own. For a long time the land was green –supported by two major rivers carrying the nutrients down from the mountains in the south. It was green and it was cool and sometimes there was ice; sometimes the land was impermeable and completely barren. Sometimes there were winds, storms, and lethal showers of ice and rock. There were bad times when they stayed in the safety of the city for years – for hundreds of years.
Sarah came. She jumped into her mind with a new sort of urgency. Sarah, Sarai, of Abraham, Abram – so many names. Amtilai the Horite was there in her memories. Terah, her husband, took her from her father’s land beside the river in the south. The river came from the hills and lakes, flooding his banks, watering the land. It came twice a year – every year. Amtilai was troubled in her husband’s land because she was not of his people. Their skin was light – their bodies heavy. She was tall and lean with fast legs and tight curls in her hair. The other women despised her, derided her and her language, her customs, her gods and her children. Abram, her son, had no friends. A loner he withdrew into himself and eventually turned on his father. He despised him and his idols; he despised his wife for not bearing children; he despised his brother for being the first born and for having many children. These were strong memories about strong feelings and much anger – so much anger in one man.
Meira went deeper, back to Catherine and Amana to a time when the Matriarchy was strong – when people thought before they acted; when the reptilian cortex was where it belonged and firmly under control. Both had lived in this city, had children here, buried their parents here and served on the councils that controlled the lives of the people – not just the people here, within these walls, but all people across the land to the east and further, much further, to the south. This city, she realised, had been the administrative centre of all communities from Babylon, in Mesopotamia, to Quetta, in the Indus Valley.
Migration was always south, deeper into the fertile lands fed by the great rivers flowing from the Himalayan Plateau and the Karakoram Mountains where she discovered her first solar city only three years ago and where the local villagers died of uranium poisoning after the American invasion. All that pain came flooding back. She could never become accustomed to the pain; no matter how many times she went to a place the memory was as vivid as the first visit. In Tiahuanaco, facing Mount Cerro Rico, where the Conquistadors worked African slaves to death, she had suffered their agonies. In Maghreb she had seen the screaming deaths under the volcanic ash and heard Catherine crying out for her life but this city, where she sat today, was functioning in all its glorious humanity before all that. This city was built near the end of the eighty thousand years since after humans came up from The Rift Valley. This city was built before the end of the beginning. If she could move past some mental blocks she would be able to learn all there was about those golden times but there was confusion. For the first time there was confusion. She could not be sure where some of the memories belonged, either because they were dim, or because they were too far back. For a while the generations were long – some more than five hundred years – but before that there were many, much shorter, lives of less than thirty years. It was back there, in that harsh time of ignorance and superstition, where the confusion originates. She didn’t understand why she needed to be there but her mind wanted to go so she had to follow.
She sank deeper – immersing herself in the chaos growing there. She just let it go – let her mind wander randomly without input from the frontal lobe but it was a struggle; reason kept trying to intervene. Once, twice, she failed, and her mind floated to the surface but she persisted, and was rewarded by what appeared as an hallucinogenic journey through a maze of unconnected images. Some were grey, intangible, others bright white burning into her consciousness, but most were in three-dimensional colour that was uncomfortably close to realism. Coming through it all was the realization that the time before the Matriarchy was very long – much longer than the time since. The time since the fall of her mothers’ governments was quite short – quite piquant, and charged with conflict. Before the Matriarchy all was chaotic, not that chaos was lacking after the collapse, but the earlier time was a wilderness – a drifting devoid of purpose.
She would have to re-visit these times because, just for now, she was too tired to continue. Letting her mind take control she came up from meditations to the slow realisation that she was not alone. Someone was near.
Bargain with the Commander
“You been gone a long time. How you feelin’ now?”
Opening her eyes she stared into the face of John Conway. Her brain immediately slipped into gear and began racing through the possibilities.
He watched as she wrestled with the options. “Let me help you,” he offered, then paused for a few seconds. “There’s more to this project than uranium and water,” he began. “You don’t care much about either of those – you care about this place. You care about how this was built and who built it and what went on here. Now you’re worried that I might stop you finding out.”
She studied his face. His eyes were dark but steady. He could hold her gaze while his jaw was remained relaxed – not open, but not under tension.
“Well I wont. I want you to find out. I want you to find out and I will protect you while you do it. How long do you need?”
“You can’t ‘ave that. I can’t give you that. Ain’t nobody knows what’s goin’ to ‘appen in three years. I can get you three months. How about I get you three months and you give me all you know about the people who made this place?”
She looked up at him, eyes wide. “How about,” she mimicked, “how about you give me one year. You use all your resources as best you can to keep this place secret and stocked with supplies for one year and I will reveal all I find to you – no secrets.”
“I need more’n that. You know I need more’n that.”
“As I find it then. I will give you all I find as I find it, but you must not act on it in any way until we finish one year’s work. After that year, we review, and see if we can go another two years because that is what it’s going to take.”
“If I’m goin’ keep you safe I ‘ave to ‘ave control of who comes and goes, and that includes messages in and out – all messages in and out.”
“I need Ben and Peter. You have to keep Ben in the security picture, and I might have to bring my mother here.”
“You start now. You tell me all you know now – then we’ll see.”
“What about Israel Akbul and his men?”
He gazed at her – assessing. “Perhaps you could use them?”
The Chinook returned with pumps and pipes, generators, wire, cases of foodstuffs a satellite dish, and computers. “You’ve not stinted us,” she said to Bill between instructions to his men and to Israel’s, reluctant, volunteers. The latter were working, slowly, probably under the threat of death.
“There’s never a problem when it comes to money with the John Conway. He won’t let money get in the way of his business.”
She had briefed the Commander on her understanding of the history of hominids and the role of the Matriarchy in human development. He had listened without comment and, as far as she could tell, without scepticism. At the end of her tale he had only one question – “This Gilgamesh fella – did he find his grandfather?”
“Oh yes,” she lied. “He lived a long life – six hundred years or more.”
Had she made a wish list it would not have contained all that had come her way in the last week. In that time, in that action packed, sometimes terrifying, time she had acquired unlimited access to a unique discovery, a vast resource of supportive materials, a workforce, and a security system second to none. She couldn’t have asked for more, and it was all working. The only limitation she could see was within herself. Could she bring to the project all that was needed to reveal how life could be without conflict? She could, she decided at the outset, but that was before she understood her purpose. That was before she started on the walls.