The Blade of An'Khan.
"Today, we're gathered to see the beginning of a new era,"
President Cambourne began, addressing the sea of beaming faces. I
hate addresses like these. They always seem to drag on too long,
and half the time no one is really paying any attention. Except
for, maybe, today.
"It's taken a long time, and a lot of hard work and perserverance
to get this far. One day, exactly one decade ago, a team of
archaeologists excavating a tomb in the depths of Marinkha, came
across what they thought was simply an artefact, a relic from a
civilization now lost from memory. But when the team began to
study the walls of the tomb it was found in, that artefact, a
small, crystal-clear globe with an obsidian core, was found to be
more. It was a technology - a technology that's taken almost ten
years to study. But the time for study is over. Let me welcome to
you the woman who headed the archaeology team, Dr Eliah Ingam."
I'd been in this situation twice before during the thirty years
of my career, and managed to remember all the secrets - smile,
look happy, and most of all, don't forget your lines. I
managed the first instantly, smiling as I turned to put my wine
glass down on the small table besides me. As I approached the
podium, people clapping heartily, I briefly went over in my head
what was immediately happening. If I let my mind wander to what
was about to happen... Butterflies, stop.
I coughed to clear my throat. "Thank you, President Cambourne.
I'd just like to start by saying thank you to all those on the
archaeology team, especially Dr Hush Kito. It was Dr Kito who
first discovered the tomb, and without his expertise on similar
Marinkha tombs, we would never have had any cause to wonder about
the artefact." I glanced at my notes. They were scrappy, and
partly illegible, having been hand-written. No amount of practice
had cured my shaky hand.
"The artefact," I said, operating a remote that had been placed
on the podium. Behind me, the window turned opaque, and a
projector whirred to life. I turned to make sure the artefact
was, indeed, being shown to all the watchers. "The artefact was
found on a pedestal. Similar pedestals were present in the thirty
other tombs Dr Kito had excavated, but never had one been found
with an artefact atop it.
"Before we wanted to remove the artefact to be studied, we needed
to know that it was simply an object of decoration. We knew the
Marinkha were a technologically advanced society, but only used
technology when the need was called for. So we began a detailed
study of the inscriptions in the tomb, in the hopes that it would
reveal the designated use of the artefact. What we found was more
than we could have ever imagined."
I paused for effect. This news was about to set the bar for the
next one hundred technological years of humans, and I wanted
these people to feel it just as much as I did.
From the corner of my eye, I could see President Cambourne lean
closer. He knew the revelations that these news-hungry reporters
were about to hear, but I was pleased to see that he was just as
eager to hear all over again.
"The inscriptions," I continued, flicking another switch on the
remote so that a photo of some of the writings came up, "are
written in a language that no one has heard spoken for almost
twenty thousand years. By looking at the symbol placement and
frequency, we were able to determine words. From there, we found
grammatical markings. Or, rather, one grammatical marking.
It would be the equivalent of our full stop. It took almost three
years for lingual specialists to find definitions for these
words, and another year to be able to decipher the syntax used.
Finally, six years ago, we were able to read these words in
Galactic Standard. We may never know how this language was spoken
aloud, but at least we know what the Marinkha said. We now have a
good, solid base for further translations of Marinkha writings."
"What did the writings say?"
I looked to my right, from where a reporter had interrupted me. I
smiled, though it didn't reach my eyes, I was sure. "Its true
that this is a press conference, and I will be accepting
questions a little later. I feel it necessary, however, to give
the complete story, otherwise there may be some confusion later
on." I watched the reporter sink back into his chair, peeved that
I'd not answered his question immediately. Despite reporters, I
was going to do things in my own time. Today was too momentous to
"As I was about to say, these writings will help us to get into
the minds and culture of a race long forgotten. Such insight may
help us to avoid their eventual fate, and may benefit our own
culture. Technologies that can help cure the sick, prolong life,
increase crop yield - all of these may well be at our fingertips.
We simply need to keep searching."
"So the artefact - is it any of those technologies?"
Take a deep breath, Eliah. "Please, let me continue
without interruption." I waited for him to settle back down.
"The artefact was long thought to simply be decoration, although
Dr Kito's analysis of the writings soon put us right on that
front. The artefact was a technology, but the writings in
the tomb didn't provide indication as to the technology's use,
nor instructions on how it worked. So our scientists began a
three-year long research program, hooking it up to monitors and
scanners. At the end of the three years, the scientists hoped
they would be able to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, this
wasn't what happened.
"X-rays, MRI, and CT scans all came back with a blank. The clear
shell of the artefact was just that - clear, and empty. But the
scans couldn't penetrate to the obsidian core. No matter what
scans or tests the scientists carried out, the artefact remained
a complete mystery. Of course, we archaeologists were also on the
hunt for more information. We expanded the excavation into twelve
other sections of the tomb. In each section, there were more
writings. So we began to translate these. Eventually, after
having spent more than nine years trying to unravel the mysteries
of the artefact, we had found the truth."