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
“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 be hurried.
“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. Hungry piranhas.
“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.”
© Copyright 2016 Tamara K Waite. All rights reserved.