THE UNEARTHING

THE UNEARTHING | download free pdf
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IshaJohnson,United Kingdom,Professional
Published Date:31-07-2017
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PRELUDE THE BEGINNING In the beginning all was void and without form. There was no substance, no matter or energy. The elemental forces did not exist; neither did space or time. All that existed was nothing. Born of this irresolute paradox the Universe came into being and for the first time the eternal dark was broken by the Light. The order of oblivion was shattered by the chaos of creation. Elemental forces of unstoppable violence roiled, pushing back the void to make room for the strange powers and energies that were screaming out from the core of creation to find their place in the new reality. The elemental powers, titans of weak and strong and strange attractors defined the first basic laws that governed creation. Their wrestling war against one another unleashed the energy that fuelled the continued growth of existence. Protomatter coalesced from burning plasma caught in fields of cold unmerciful gravity only to be rent asunder and scattered in an ever-widening sphere. The farther away from the violent chaos of creation these scattered elements fled the cooler they became. And as the matter and energy of the newborn universe began to cool a new order descended over all. Vast nebulae formed from cooling gasses and strange, elemental particles. These nebulae grew so large and dense, so fertile with the stuff of 9STEVE KARMAZENUK creation that they began to collapse upon themselves. As matter condensed energy was released in violent reactions and chain reactions. New explosions dawned in a universe scarcely a billion years old. Globules of superhot matter and energy were scattered to the winds of spacetime, trailing dust in their wake. When these burning spheres finally came to rest rotating gracefully on their own axes, the dust they had stolen began to settle into rings and disks around them. Slowly these disks of dust underwent their own transformations, forming dense pockets of matter and trapped energy all their own. Sometimes enough substance would collect into spheres of gas. Sometimes these spheres would collapse and ignite, becoming new, smaller stars. In other cases the matter would collect into loosely affiliated but nevertheless super dense clouds of gas. Just as often matter would collect into spheres dense enough to harden into planets or cold, random lumps of rock. Other stranger forms of matter and energy were often born but their placement would remain as much a mystery as their substance. Not every world would bear the gift of life, but life still appeared and in many cases flourished in the otherwise barren universe. Not all worlds that held life held it long enough for sentience to emerge. And not all worlds that held sentient life would live long enough for that life to spread out beyond the cradle of its birth. And tragically the losses on these worlds went unnoticed by the universe at large. On many of these worlds civilizations rose and fell, succeeding and often failing on their own merits. Other times it was blind and uncaring cosmic chance that decided their fates. But on every world where life did prosper, where sentience emerged, the desire to understand the origins of their world, their universe emerged as well. Many worlds approached these issues from a philosophical standpoint, looking to the sun, to spirits, to gods to ponder questions about the nature of the universe and why they were in it. Other worlds looked at creation analytically, using the methods of empirical knowledge to determine how they came to be. Many worlds asked both how and why, trying to merge the twin opposites of science and religion into one. Invariably whether worlds of individuals or hive-like superorganisms, whether peaceful or warlike, whether superstitious or scientific, all sentient worlds turned their attention beyond their nesting spheres and out into the heavens. The ships created by these worlds were as wide in variety as the races that spawned them. Their means of propulsion were diverse, sometimes using systems of kinesis and power that the scientists of other worlds would maintain were impossible. 10THE UNEARTHING But on every world the first ships and on many worlds whole flotillas of ships were explorers. As explorers set out, first tentatively learning about their own star systems before heading out into the darkness of space, they discovered much of consequence about their own origins and the fragility of their worlds. Sometimes within their own systems they found other life. Often the explorers would discover themselves alone orbiting their parent stars. But when they left behind their homeworlds and birth stars, they set out with hope of finding others. 11 1 THE DISCOVERY A dust storm was blowing across the road as James Johnson piloted the camper down the long stretch of New Mexican highway. A sheet of dust rippled and danced, breaking like a wave against the asphalt. The storm was so bad that James had to switch on the enhancer in the camper’s windshield. The enhancer created a computer-rendered simulation of the road and desert surrounding him. The wire frame image of the world outside his windshield compiled quickly, filling in with detail and colour that looked almost exactly like the real world. “James, where are we?” the Prof called from the back of the camper. “Hang on, I’ll check,” James called back. There was a small monitor mounted in the middle of the driver’s display panel, the stylized word Galileo™ shimmering on the screen. “Galileo,” James said. “Where are we?” Over the music playing through the camper’s stereo system came the 13STEVE KARMAZENUK perfectly-simulated female voice of the Galileo system, “We are now approaching the city limits for Laguna.” “We’re just crossing into Laguna, Prof,” James called back. A moment later he added, “I thought we were already in Laguna.” “We are,” the Prof called. “We crossed into the Laguna Band District an hour ago and now we’re going into the town of Laguna, itself.” As if in confirmation of this the camper rolled past a large white sign, proclaiming WELCOME TO THE TOWN OF LAGUNA GOVERNMENT OF THE SOUTHWESTERN NATIVE PROTECTORATE LAGUNA BAND DISTRICT In the back of the camper, sitting in the horseshoe-shaped booth guarding a Formica table Professor Mark Echohawk sat working with his console. He wore a small but elaborate headset: an earphone in his left ear from which radiated a compact array: a microphone stretched out beside his mouth and a boom extended a small display screen over his left eye. The band that held the console to Echohawk’s head cinched down over his long, greying hair. The headset was connected by a small, flexible cable bundle to the CPU Echohawk wore on his belt. The device itself weighed less than the headset and most of its size was taken up by the Digital Optic Slip reader on its front. A wireless remote keypad sat on the tabletop. Echohawk, an archaeologist attached to the World Aboriginal Anthropological Society and working out of UCLA, was studying images of an object unearthed in the desert near Laguna. The Chief of the Laguna Band, Paul Santino, had contacted the Society only days before requesting someone come. What the Lagunas had apparently unearthed was one side of a golden pyramid. Echohawk got wind of the discovery and immediately asked to be assigned to the project. His passion was the study of the ancient civilizations of the Americas and this discovery had captivated him. “We’re almost there, Prof” James called from the camper’s cockpit. Echohawk stood up, retracting the monitor boom of his console and folding up the keypad. He headed forward and took the front passenger seat 14THE UNEARTHING beside his assistant. The camper reached the turn-off to head into the town of Laguna. The side road was little more than hard-packed dirt. But as they crossed the decorative wall guarding the approach to the town they left the desert behind them. The town of Laguna was an oasis in the desert. Greenery and trees sprang up in large tracts of parkland surrounding the downtown core. The Southwestern Protectorate had developed extensive water reclamation systems and was bringing life back to the desert. The residential neighbourhoods were densely packed communal green spaces the norm more often than not. As the camper swung though the streets some of the locals took notice. Laguna was a closed community, a company town promoted and developed as one of the crown jewels in the Southwestern Native Protectorate. Unemployment was near zero, with the town’s twenty-odd thousand residents working either on the farms or in the shops, or the town’s backbone, the One Tree Hill software company. Following the Galileo system’s concise directions James took the camper right to the parking lot of the Municipal Building where Echohawk would meet with Paul Santino. “We’re here,” James said, parking and shutting down the camper. The Ballard cell engine cycled down, the whine of the system dropping to a hum and then silence. Echohawk climbed out. “Great news,” he said. “Even better, there’s a Coke machine. I don’t think I could stomach another cup of your coffee.” Echohawk fed his debit card into the soda machine as James slipped on his own console headset. “Call Peter,” he said into the microphone. A second later he was connected. “Peter? Yeah, we made it. How far behind us are you? Uh-huh…okay, well the Prof wants to get out to the site as quickly as possible so I’d suggest linking to our Galileo and following us there. No, unless you want to stop and get some sodas I think you can bypass the town. No, the Prof’s going in to meet with him now.” As James spoke Mark Echohawk made his way into the air-conditioned interior of the Municipal Building. The Municipal Building was only four storeys high but its lobby could have been that of a more auspicious building: elegantly decorated with local flora, pictures of area landmarks adorning the walls. Echohawk was about to announce himself to the receptionist when the man he’d come to see came 15STEVE KARMAZENUK down the hallway and introduced himself. “Professor Echohawk? I’m Paul Santino,” the Laguna Chief said, extending his hand. “Mark Echohawk.” “Please to meet you; my office is this way.” Santino led Echohawk down the hall. They were close in age though Echohawk was visibly older, his hair greying slowly through the ponytail hanging down his back. Santino, his hair dark and closely cropped, had the robust features characteristic of an outdoor life in the New Mexico badlands. Echohawk had over the years become an academe. This was the first fieldwork he’d done in a few years, though the weathered look of a seasoned field archaeologist had not softened from his face. They reached the office. The ground floor corner suite looked out over a spacious park rich in greenery and with a flowing fountain. The blinds were open and the office was alive with rich sunlight. Santino sat behind his desk and pushed a file across to Echohawk. The archaeologist picked it up and began flipping through the pictures inside. “Tell me again how this was found.” “A few local kids were tooling around the desert in gas-powered buggies,” Santino replied. “One of the buggies wrecked pretty bad and dug up the tip of the pyramid. When they started digging it up they thought it might be old cowboy loot dropped from a saddlebag. It didn’t take them long to realize it wasn’t. That’s when they came to town to get help. We managed to excavate almost three meters of the thing before we called your people.” “That was a week ago,” Echohawk said. “Have you managed to unearth any more of the object?” “We cleared off a second face of the pyramid to a total depth of four meters,” Santino replied. “The damn thing is huge. The size of the excavation’s making it harder to dig up and the soil is rocky around here so the dig is pretty tough.” “The land around here’s remained unchanged for tens of thousands of years,” Echohawk said. “Under accepted theories about native migration across the continent that shouldn’t be possible. Then there’s the question of just how the object was buried. How far is it to the site?” “It’s almost thirty klicks out of town,” said Santino. “Well past city limits, but still within the Laguna District.” “Any other towns nearby?” “Ghost towns now; most of the land around here was given up after the war. When White Sands was nuked the fallout blew right through this area.” 16THE UNEARTHING “It doesn’t seem to have affected things here.” “Laguna’s the end product of the first twenty years of Southwestern Protectorate civil engineering,” Santino replied. “The town and the Band are old, going back to the Reservation era, but after the war this area was pretty badly beaten up. The town’s only looked like it does now for about ten years.” Echohawk nodded gravely. He remembered the battles that had been waged both in the political and personal arenas to establish the American First Nations Protectorates. “How hot is the dust where the pyramid was found?” “Remarkably it’s almost clean,” Santino said. “The radiation level is negligible.” “Can we get out to the site? I’d like to see the object for myself.” “We can leave right away if you like,” Santino said, rising. Echohawk also got to his feet. “We’ll follow you in my camper,” Echohawk said. “I want to get out to the site and start setting up a base camp right away.” “I’ll get my car and meet you around front.” They headed for the door. They traveled to the site on a dirt path stamped out in the earth by the recent activity surrounding the buried pyramid. This was outback; hilly desert stretching out for miles around them. The dig was visible as a glint on the horizon long before they reached it. Several cars were parked haphazardly around vaguely crescent-shaped pit, a canteen truck standing guard by the cars while a dump truck waited near the portable toilets as earth and stone was hauled from the arena by wheelbarrow. James pulled the camper up to the other cars as Santino parked his own vehicle close by. Echohawk left the camper, approaching the Chief of the Laguna Band. “Who’d you get for the dig?” Echohawk asked. “Locals,” Santino replied. “City works crews and high-schoolers looking for summer work.” Echohawk descended into the work pit. The excavation had uncovered two faces of the pyramid which shimmered in the late morning sun. The work pit was about ten meters wide at its base with a gradually sloping pathway to the surface. They’d moved a lot of earth; the problem with excavating a pyramid was that the further down one went, the larger the pit had to be so that there was enough room to work around the bottom of the pyramid and continue digging. Echohawk studied the dig so far: they had been primarily concerned with hauling away the earth and stone surrounding the pyramid’s 17STEVE KARMAZENUK two exposed sides. The bad news was anything in the earth of geological significance that had been thus far removed was now lost. The locals had been eager to unearth the structure and in so doing had destroyed many potential clues to the pyramid’s origins. However there was still enough undisturbed land around the pyramid’s two unexposed sides for them to learn what they needed to know. “I’m going to want to clear everyone out,” Echohawk said to Santino. “We have to proceed carefully and for now that means shutting down the dig.” He turned to James, who was once more on the console link to Peter. “James, when Peter gets here I want you guys to start taking core samples from around the site,” he said. “We need to establish the geological age of the pyramid. Also, get a grid set up on the unexposed sides; thirty square meters of half-meter squares. Then until we’ve dug everything out to the same depth. We’ll do Doppler seismography to get an approximation of the site after the geosurvey cores are taken.” James nodded and began relaying the information to Peter who was leading a small convoy of three cube vans of equipment and crew to the site. Echohawk started down into the work pit and approached the pyramid. Though only two sides were exposed and then only four meters of the structure it was already impressive, imposing. Its golden surface reflected the sunlight brilliantly. The pyramid was nearly perfectly smooth. There was hardly any sign of weathering on its surface; few scuffs or scratches and almost no dents or pockmarks. Given the tools the locals were using Echohawk had expected there to be some significant scoring on the pyramid’s surface, but there was none. It was almost too smooth. He knelt beside the pyramid, running a hand over its surface. “Excuse me, Professor,” Santino said, “but I was wondering: you’d mentioned doing a geological survey of the land. May I ask why?” Echohawk stood up, looking around the work pit. Shovels and pickaxes, yet no damage to the pyramid. “A geological survey will allow us to establish, roughly, about how long the structure’s been buried,” Echohawk explained. “As time passes, the ground, surface dust and natural debris changes. Each new surface layer preserves the one underneath. Each layer of earth will be characteristic of a different geological era. Certain types of seed found mixed in the earth could be extinct in the present era or be the progenitor of a current plant. Soil metallurgy changes too, as time goes on. One layer of earth might have a relatively high amount of salt from when this was once an ocean floor. 18THE UNEARTHING Another could contain high quantities of particleized iron or other materials indicative of a nearby meteor impact. The pyramid’s position relative to the local geological history and how the earth around the pyramid settled will tell us how long it’s been here and then hopefully help us figure out who put it here and more importantly, when.” As Echohawk and Santino finished speaking, Mark became aware that several pairs of eyes were focused on him; some faces suspicious, some hopeful, all expectant. “Hello, ladies and gentlemen,” Echohawk began. “I want to start off by thanking you one and all for the effort you’ve made so far in digging up the pyramid behind me.” And Echohawk was very aware of the pyramid behind him. The Mayan and Incan civilizations had worshipped at pyramids and he easily imagined this object being used as the source of veneration. He wondered when there had last been an elder preaching as a crowd gathered around him to listen. Though he admitted, the smooth lines of this pyramid owed more to Egyptian styling than South American. “My crew and I were sent here based on the pictures your band council sent to the World Aboriginal Anthropological Society. I can tell you that the discovery of this pyramid is an important one, not just from an archaeological point of view but also as a societal one for us and for all Aboriginal peoples in the Americas. Because of the need to gather as much information as possible and because of the need to protect the structure, we will have to temporarily cease excavation.” Grumbles and disappointed moans greeted Echohawk’s words. He raised his hands in a stopping motion, calling for silence. “Folks, please…I said temporarily” Echohawk called. “This is necessary, because we have to run certain tests in order to properly date the find, study the soil composition and to determine the height of the structure itself. In order to do that, unfortunately, we have to stop digging for a while. I promise that as soon as we are ready to resume digging any and all of you who are still interested in working on the dig will be rehired. And when you are rehired you’ll be working for the WAAS and being paid according to their very generous scale.” This brought smiles and some applause. There were worse ways of kicking people off a dig site. As the work crew shouldered their shovels and pickaxes, climbing from the work pit, Echohawk returned his attention to the pyramid. He reached out to its golden surface, laying his hand on metal warmed by the desert sun. Except that the metal covering the surface of the pyramid was cool; it certainly was no hotter than air 19STEVE KARMAZENUK temperature, which on that fine summer morning was hovering around thirty- two degrees Celsius. Baking in the sun, the skin of the pyramid should have been much warmer. Echohawk slid his hand along the pyramid, feeling the smoothness of it. There were some scratches and pockmarks on it, but they felt weathered, smooth. He couldn’t find any fresh scratches or gouges despite the equipment that had been used. The surface of the pyramid was mottled but that appeared to be a function of design. Echohawk stood and made his way from the pit. This was an unbelievable find and so far the information didn’t make sense to him at all. LINX TO: Laura Echohawk FROM: Mark Echohawk SUBJECT: Laguna Dig Dear Laura, I got your last linx yesterday. I’m glad you like the book; finding a tome on abstract art of the 1980s was difficult. I think you’re one of the few people on Earth who actually likes work from that era. I hope the book helps you with your current project. It was also good to hear that you and your roommate managed to work things out; Allison’s a great girl and it would have been a shame if your friendship ended over something as trivial as housework division. I have news of my own: I have returned to the field If you can believe it, I finally got a field project interesting enough to pull me out of the classroom: Early last week, shortly after I linxed you my last letter, the World Aboriginal Anthropological Society contacted me regarding a discovery made in New Mexico on land belonging to the Laguna Band. The Lagunas discovered the tip of a golden pyramid buried beneath the desert. Three things about this discovery have piqued my interest well beyond my usual tomb raider’s 20THE UNEARTHING curiosity: First, it was previously assumed that the pyramid-building Aboriginal societies hadn’t established themselves any further north than the Mexican Peninsula. Second, the Laguna Pyramid has more in common in design with Egyptian pyramids than it does to its South American cousins: it is covered in gold or some sort of gold alloy and has a pointed peak and smooth sides, as opposed to the plateaued summit and staggered sides of most South American pyramids. Lastly, that the Laguna Pyramid is buried is significant, because the land around Laguna has been unchanged by geological event for thousands upon thousands of years. This means that either the Laguna Pyramid is quite ancient or it was meticulously and deliberately buried. I haven’t been this excited about a project since Doctor Aiziz and I discovered the Quipu repository, in Columbia. I hope this linx finds you well; I look forward to hearing from you soon. Let me know how things go authenticating those works you discovered in the university’s warehouse. We’ll go out for coffee as soon as I get back to LA. All my love, Dad Peter Paulson arrived at the head of a convoy of cube vans and one flatbed trailer. They parked just inside an area marked off earlier by James using orange “CAUTION” tape and aluminium poles. A small army of assistants, graduate students and general help, began unloading crates of equipment and setting up tent-like portable shelters to be used as living quarters and a mobile lab building made from corrugated aluminium sheets and a titanium frame. By the middle of the afternoon Mark Echohawk’s archaeological team had set up the entire base of operations and James and Peter had drilled out their first core samples. 21STEVE KARMAZENUK “James” Peter called, stepping inside the lab. “What have we got going?” James turned his chair away from the workstation and shook Peter’s hand. “‘Sup, Pete?” he asked. “What we’ve got going is the end-stage analysis of the core samples.” James handed a sheaf of paper to Peter. “This is interesting,” Peter said, reading the report. “It says here there’s a high concentration of iridium in the soil around the structure.” “Only at a specific depth in the soil,” James answered. “It looks like a local meteoric impact. “Yeah, but the patterning suggests the KT boundary,” Peter said. “You noticed that too, huh?” James asked. “The Prof shit when he saw it. He wants me to drill new samples and re-run the geological survey.” “I can see why.” In geology, the KT boundary is a marker indicative of a time at the end of the Cretaceous Era when the Earth was subject to massive meteoric bombardment, including the so-called “Death Star” that wiped out the dinosaurs. The hallmark of the KT boundary was an uncommonly high concentration of iridium in the soil of the era; iridium being an element common in space, but exceedingly rare on earth. “I don’t believe it’s the KT myself,” James said. “I think it’s just an anomalous iridium layer, probably from a local nearby meteoric impact.” “That would make more sense to me,” Peter replied. “It’s something to keep an eye on. We’ll look for other signs of a nearby impact when we do seismography.” “Yeah, the Prof wants to see you about that,” James told him. “He wants the cannons set up for a wide scan.” “Why?” “He wants to completely rule out the KT boundary’s significance to the dig.” Peter made his way across their narrow, dusty compound to Mark Echohawk’s trailer. He was a couple of years older than James and was tall, dark-haired and athletic. Coming from a poor neighbourhood, he’d exploited an athletic scholarship to get himself into the UCLA anthropology department. It didn’t take his teachers long to realize this jock in particular was more interested than working in the field than playing on one. It wasn’t long after that Mark Echohawk, dean emeritus of UCLA’s newly-expanded archaeology department, took an interest in the young Peter Paulson. 22THE UNEARTHING Peter found Echohawk in the camper’s kitchenette brewing a pot of coffee. He favoured an old-fashioned percolator urn-style coffee maker over the more popular—and faster—drip-brew coffee makers. He was waiting patiently for the “Ready” light on the urn to turn red, a large glass mug in his hand. “Hi Mark,” Peter said. He was the only one of Echohawk’s students to call him, privately, by his first name. “Hello Peter,” he said, reaching for the tap on the coffee urn the instant the light flashed red. “Want a cup?” “Hell yeah,” Peter said, sliding into the horseshoe-shaped booth. If there was one thing the Prof did exceptionally well besides archaeology it was brew a pot of coffee. Echohawk put milk, brown sugar and a bottle of cinnamon on the table. Peter began fixing his coffee as Echohawk sat down. Peter, almost twenty-five, watched the sixty-odd-year-old Echohawk fix his own coffee. Peter had studied under Echohawk for years now and had been fortunate enough to go into the field with him twice. This was their third expedition together and Peter, close to graduating and beginning his own career as an anthropologist, considered Echohawk both a friend and mentor. “You read the geosurvey report?” Echohawk asked. “Yeah.” “What do you think?” “I think we have to run some scans and dig.” “Why?” “The iridium layer,” Peter replied. “It could be anomalous, but I’ve seen enough spectrographs of the KT boundary to know when I’m looking at it. So either the structure was buried at the end of the Cretaceous or else it was built in a pit dug out that far down and then very meticulously buried.” Echohawk nodded. He’d come to the same conclusion. Neither of them liked the implications. “That’s why I want to start off with an extended Doppler seismology scan,” Echohawk said, “to see if it was buried deliberately or not. I also want to find out if the pyramid was part of some sort of temple complex. If they dug a pit to build the thing in, chances are it wasn’t a stand-alone structure. Chances are there’s other structures buried nearby and I want to see if we can’t locate them as well.” “We should follow up with a hard dig,” Peter said. “Use Positron Emission Test scanners to see what’s between us and the structure and just 23STEVE KARMAZENUK strip out as much earth as possible. We may even want to consider getting an orbital deep radar scan of the surrounding desert.” “One thing at a time,” Echohawk said. “Set up the Doppler cannons for as wide a scan field as possible. Then, we determine the next step.” It took most of the rest of the afternoon to set up the Doppler seismology cannons for the scan. Doppler seismology scanning had been a beneficial addition to field archaeology years earlier. Using special cannons, slug weights were fired into the ground. The seismic vibrations, Doppler waves, resulting from the blasts were picked up by echographic equipment similar in nature to ultrasound scanners and the resulting information was fed into computing systems that compiled three-dimensional images of objects buried beneath layers and layers of earth. The use of multiple cannons fired simultaneously and networked in to a central computer would generate a detailed image of an object and anything surrounding it for kilometres. Doppler seismology had proven to be most beneficial in palaeontology, helping discover entire dinosaur burial grounds. But Doppler seismology had also been used in archaeological digs in Egypt, Iraq and India. The greatest success of Doppler seismology to date had been the discovery of an entire lost city in China’s Gobi desert. When James and Peter returned from setting up the cannons, the sun was well on its way towards setting. Three canteen trucks, one cooking hamburgers, fries and pizza, one serving ice cream and one serving just about everything else, had established a beachhead on the edge of Echohawk’s camp. James left to get their suppers while Peter reported in with Echohawk. The rest of the expedition were seated at picnic tables eating, or were working diligently in the lab building preparing for the Doppler scan and running final analyses on the soil samples taken earlier that day. Peter and James ate their fast-food suppers and then joined Professor Echohawk in the lab where the Prof sat with Paul Santino. “Gentlemen,” Echohawk said, “we’re ready when you are.” James sat at one workstation, Peter at another. “Tracking and recording are online,” James said. “Echography imaging systems on,” Peter said. “We’re compiling a scan of ambient seismic activity.” “An ambient scan will allow us to get an accurate image,” Echohawk explained to Santino. “By sampling the seismic ‘noise’ made from foot and 24THE UNEARTHING vehicle traffic and natural shifting in the ground, the scanner will then be able to filter out that background activity and focus entirely on the shockwaves set off by the cannons firing.” Santino nodded and continued to watch the display screens in front of James and Peter. “We’re ready, Prof,” James called. “You may fire when ready,” Echohawk said with amusement. “Thirty-second blast warning,” Peter said, toggling a switch. Two short blasts of a siren erupted in response, followed by a long wail which cycled higher and higher in pitch before dying out. “Cannons armed,” James reported. “Final countdown,” Peter said, reaching for an isolated console. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two and one. Fire” James unlocked a sealed button on the computer console and pressed it. There was a deep muffled rumbling noise and the slightest of tremors passed through the ground. A sound like distant thunder rolled through the compound and instantly every screen on the monitors before them flared to life, recording the progress of the shockwaves set off by the multiple cannons firing. A distinct image was forming on the main screen where the Doppler compilation was being done. It showed the pyramid as seen from above, resting atop a large circular dais. From there the image became strange, almost incomprehensible to Echohawk or his team: The dais was sitting on top of the crest of an arched dome, kilometres across. The dome was covered by an irregular network of pits and canyons and large constructs that looked like clusters of buildings. The dome itself was so huge that its periphery could not be seen on the scan image. “What the hell was that?” Echohawk asked, rising. “I don’t know,” Peter said. “I don’t understand what we’re looking at.” “Show me three-D of the scan,” Echohawk said. “James, how far did we scan?” “We set up the seismology to scan everything within a ten-kilometre radius of the pyramid,” James said. “Can we compile further out?” Echohawk asked. “Extrapolate based on what we have so far?” “It won’t be well defined,” James said, “but there’s enough seismic activity for the Doppler imager to compile an image another ten K out, with about fifty to sixty percent accuracy.” “Do it,” Echohawk commanded. 25STEVE KARMAZENUK “I have the three-D, Prof” Peter called. Echohawk leaned over Peter’s workstation and stared in disbelief. “The view is along the Y axis,” Peter said. “We’re looking at it from the horizontal now.” The pyramid appeared onscreen with scale measurements below the image. The Laguna Pyramid was almost twenty meters tall and nearly twenty-five meters wide at the base. Hardly a large pyramid by any standards, but it crested the ridge of a massive dome. At its summit the bowl of the dome was six kilometres wide and stretched down beyond the scope of the initial Doppler image. About two kilometres down along the surface of the dome was a ring of pyramids spaced evenly one every half-kilometre around. “I’m recompiling all images now,” James called from his workstation. “You aren’t going to believe this.” The image onscreen shrank, to accommodate its full scope. The dome was not a complete sphere but part of a mountainous arch that curved down into a massive disk. They were looking at the upper half of a massive object onscreen. One whose presence they could not even begin to understand. Their compiled image was twenty kilometres in diameter. The object they were looking at was a circular disk with an arched dome on its surface. Said dome was seven kilometres high and at its widest was fifteen kilometres. Most incomprehensible was that the gargantuan object was right now buried beneath their feet. “I think we need to call somebody,” Echohawk said, stunned. 262 EXCAVATION “I won’t believe it until we’ve had the entire Doppler seismography equipment checked out and another set of scans done,” Echohawk said during the next morning’s meeting. “In fact I wouldn’t object to replacing the Doppler equipment altogether. Is it possible that something in the local geology is setting up some weird harmonic that’s messing with the equipment?” “Not likely,” James said. “Prof, Peter looked at the Doppler equipment while I went over the geology last night: the equipment checks out fine and the only anomaly in the soil out here is that the area we’re in has significantly lower fallout levels than most of New Mexico. White Sands was a nuclear target during War Three and most of New Mexico has measurable fallout. There’s almost none in the area surrounding the Laguna Pyramid.” “What about the iridium in the soil from around the Pyramid?” Peter asked. “That’s the other problem with the dig,” Echohawk replied. “If the object was deliberately buried then the spread of iridium through the soil would not be consistent from one sample to the next. There is a very distinct spread to the iridium layer and from what we can see it’s right through the KT Boundary. So according to the current evidence not only was the object buried naturally, it was here well before the end of the Cretaceous.” 27

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