Searching Out the Ancients, Part 6

Characters: Cat Rosha, Brenda Mawarra, Elanor Parry

Before we began our Transcendence, the alien said, we documented our travels in the stars. We are willing to share that knowledge with you, in the hope it will help you find what you are looking for.

“This brings up our problem,” Brenda said to the alien. “Your jumpgate is breaking down. We will have to try and fix it just so we can go home.”

“We know you have some Quantium-40 beneath this — beneath the Heart of Transcendence,” Elanor said. “We’ll need it — just a little — to fix the jumpgate.”

I will open the way for you. You may take what you need to fix the jumpgate. Our documents are there also. I will show you where.

The being turned in the opposite direction and motioned for the women to follow her. Hesitantly they followed and watched as she glided along the floor of the machine towards a wall of earth. With one wave of the hand the ground started to shake and dirt fell from the wall revealing a large tunnel that slowly sloped downward. The alien retrieved a lantern from the wall. As she touched the center with one finger, it illuminated, bouncing light off of the walls of the tunnel. It looked like the light was shining through a prism to Cat, who had already began to miss the sunlight as they ventured deeper and deeper into the ground.

After what seemed like an eternity, the tunnel ended at a solid rock wall. The alien lifted the lantern, moving it in a slow arc from above her head to near the ground. The rays of the lantern illuminated the faintest of cracks in the wall, outlining a doorway. When the outline was complete, the alien pressed on one side, and the door pivoted on a central hinge, opening onto a chamber beyond.

It was dark, and the air was still and stale for a few moments, but even as the door closed behind them, lights concealed in the walls began to illuminate, and from somewhere nearby, a fan began circulating the air. One of us manifests periodically to check that this chamber remains intact, she said. We realized that though we no longer had need of the jumpgate, that others might, someday — so we preserved here, among other things, the means to repair it. And even this chamber could be damaged if not cared for. One of the two great truths of existence — entropy increases.

“Someone on Earth said something like that once,” Brenda said. “That there were only two certain things in life — death and taxes.”

The alien laughed. Yes. After a moment, she set to work on what appeared to be a circular stone vault in the middle of the room.

Waving her hand over the front of the vault, a section of the stone disappeared and revealed an illuminated orb with many black dots randomly placed over the object. Taking both hands the being began pressing the dots in a preconceived order. The dots lit up with every finger touch.

Cat paid more attention to the room around her, though. She was slightly claustrophobic in the stale room, and the old cracks and lights consumed her thoughts. She felt slightly lost and angry with herself still. She was going to have to do a lot of thinking when they returned from this mission.

The alien finished the pattern on the orb. With one last touch it sank back into the stone and a rumbling from inside took place. Everyone’s eyes focused on the vault; its walls whirred and creaked, revolving around fixed points in separate sections. Then the walls fell revealing the contents of what was inside.

Three pedestals of differing heights stood in the center of the vault. The tallest was filled with row upon row of identical jars made of what appeared to be a light colored, almost translucent marble. The alien picked up one of them, and handed it to Elanor. Here is the Quantium-40, she said. There is enough in this jar to build a complete jumpgate, so it should be enough for you to make the repairs.

Elanor nodded. “Thank you.”

The middle pedestal held a rack full of what appeared to be long, glasslike rods. Each one was about a foot and a half long and about as thick as Cat’s thumb. Do your people use a system of crystals for data storage? she asked.

Brenda was the first to answer. “Yes,” she said, digging into a pocket and pulling one out. “Like this.”

Excellent, the alien said, opening up a cabinet along the wall of the chamber and pulling out a box that was about a foot square, with a conical lid. She inverted the box, and fitted the conical lid to the top of a machine that sat on the final of the three pedestals. It had no obvious controls, merely a seemingly random pattern of dots on its face, like the orb which had locked the vault. The alien pressed on a number of the dots, then pulled the first of the glasslike rods from its rack, setting it into a groove at the top of the machine. The machine began to hum.

Cat, behind you there is a shelf, with cases on it. Take one of them and open it. When the data crystals begin coming out of the duplicator here — she indicated the machine — you can place them in the case. You will probably need two cases before we are done.

Cat nodded and turned around to to the shelf grabbing two black cases. They were dusty but Cat could see their color underneath. Opening up one revealed silver wire with black padding to keep the crystals in place. While Brenda and Elanor were talking to the being about something, Cat tuned everyone out and just listened to the sounds the room was making. She could hear the low hum of the duplicator and the occasional crumble falling off the walls. It was a sort of peaceful meditation. A crystal popped out of the machine like a piece of toast popping out of a toaster. It surprised her for a second but grabbed it and gently placed the crystal in the container. Another one popped out, then another and another. Cat had a smile on her face as she caught the crystals and put them away.

The alien swapped out the glassy rod for another from the rack, and set it into the duplicator. A short time later she repeated the process, and continued until all the rods had been read, and Cat had filled two cases with data crystals.

There, she told them. Those crystals document all the technology we had, to the point when we built the Heart of Transcendence. We hope they can help you in your quests. I think I will take you back to the surface again, for I am beginning to grow … lonely. The effects of the pollen, that allow us to communicate, will be wearing off soon also.

Do you have any other questions which perhaps I can answer?

Cat turned to her fellow travelers for any last input but was met with silence. “I think we may be all ready to go. I cannot put into words how grateful we are for your hospitality.” Cat bowed to the being.

You are quite welcome my new friends. I hope the information you have collected from us today will be used to better your understanding of the universe. I will show you the way back up to the surface; then finding the way back to your vessel will be on your own.

The being motioned with one arm the way to the top, letting Elanor and Brenda go first. The being walked alongside Cat. Halfway to the top she put a hand on Cat’s shoulder and said:

It will all make sense in time. I can see that your fate lies only a few paces ahead of you.

Cat gave the being a questioning look but had no time to answer because they had reached the surface and the creature slowly disappeared back into the earth.