The Cedarbrook Capsule

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Chapter 11: The Meeting

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dr. Buhr used the intervening days to prepare both his heart and mind for the meeting with Dr. Lessing. He did not provide any preliminary information about what he was going to share out of fear his findings would be dismissed by the leader outright.

On that fateful Wednesday, Buhr arrived early at the Institute. He gathered the documentation he would use to attempt to convince his boss of his findings. At the appointed time, the linguist walked to the office at the far corner of the floor carrying the large binder under his arm.

The door was open, and he could see Lessing on the phone. His boss saw him standing there and motioned him in. Entering the spacious office, Buhr closed the door behind him and stood erect on the other side of his supervisor’s desk. The room was quite imposing with its walls covered with photographs of Dr. Lessing shaking hands with leaders of nations and major corporations. To his left were photographs of the leader with each of the past two United States Presidents. Behind the desk was one of Lessing and the current President. He also saw photographs of Lessing with Sanger, the CEO of DataINC, and what appeared to be several family pictures.

To Buhr’s right was a wall consisting only of windows. Lessing had a wonderful view of the heart of Dallas. For a moment, the young linguist had a sense of envy. His journal would later recall this brief encounter, preceded by pages of prayer. His final entry before the meeting read, “Your will be done, Lord.”

Even now, Buhr was silently seeking his God for courage and wisdom. Lessing jotted something on a note pad and ended his telephone call. Looking up at his associate, the leader directed Buhr to take a seat in one of the two plush chairs before him.

“Alright, Dr. Buhr. You’ve asked for this meeting. I have much to do and can give you only thirty minutes. I trust you have some good news.”

“I do, indeed, Dr. Lessing,” he began, clearing his throat. His heart was racing. “I have found the key to the two stones.”

Lessing leaned forward in his chair, his eyes opened wide with anticipation, and rested his elbows on the desk, rubbing his palms together. Even though he disliked the man’s religious views, he did respect his linguistic abilities and, therefore, was ecstatic with this news.

“That’s wonderful, Dr. Buhr? Tremendous! Absolutely wonderful!”

“Thank you, sir,” he replied, wiping the small accumulation of sweat from his forehead. Buhr could not recall the last time Lessing had complimented him on anything. “I’ve had a lot of help from my teammates.”

“Of course, you have, Zeke. Of course, you have.”

Buhr almost broke out in laughter. “Did he just call me Zeke? That’s a first,” he said to himself.

“So,” Lessing resumed, getting down to business. “Tell me what our friends on Proteus have to say?”

Buhr gulped and tried to lick his lips which were too dry to speak. He knew what was about to happen and fear momentarily gripped his heart. Finally, his courage rose once more, and he began his presentation.

“If I may, sir, allow me to share some of my translation findings with you first before I explain how I discovered the key. You have far more knowledge and experience and I want your thoughts on my work. If you see an error in what I share with you then, perhaps, I have not found the solution to the translation.”

Lessing stared at the man. The recognition of his genius had made a positive impression on his ego. But the language specialist was confused with his subordinate’s intent. How would even he, the great Dr. Lessing, know if Buhr’s translation was sound apart from knowing the key?

“Alright,” Lessing replied hesitantly. “What do you have?”

Buhr moved around the desk to Lessing’s left and placed the binder before him on the desk. He turned the page revealing a string from one of the “Gamma” disks.

“Here, Dr. Lessing, is a string from ‘Gamma-1’.”

“’Gamma-1’? Dr. Buhr, your assignment was ‘Gamma-4’ not ‘Gamma-1’.”

“Yes, sir,” the younger linguist stuttered. “But, I found this string to be a good illustration.”

“Ok. Continue.”

“This symbol,” he said, pointing at one specific marking, “is found hundreds of times on the ‘Gamma’ disks.” Moving his finger upward to a second symbol, he continued, “And this symbol appears over a thousand times.”

“Conjunctions?” asked Lessing.

“The second one, sir. I’m fairly certain the first one is…”

“Definite article,” interrupted Lessing.

Buhr, surprised by his superior’s correct response, glanced at the genius behind the desk who acknowledged his own intelligence with a wink.

“Why, yes, sir. That’s brilliant!”

Lessing’s mouth broke out in a huge smile as he stared at the string. After a moment, he pointed at the end of the string and looked at Buhr.

“Isn’t that the ‘Popov’ symbol?”

“Right again, sir.” Buhr then pointed to the third symbol in the string. “Note this symbol, Dr. Lessing. Do you see the small appendage on the lower side of the symbol?”

“Yes, clearly.”

“Well, sir, if you check the two strings below this one, you will see the same symbol except for the appendage.”

Lessing’s eyes scanned the other two strings. As he compared the three symbols, his head bobbed up and down in agreement with his team member’s assessment.

“I do see a mark on the symbol in this last string only the mark is on the top of the symbol.”

“You have observant eyes, Dr. Lessing. And, as you can see, the symbol in the second string has no such markings.”

“And you believe the symbol represents the same concept, mark or no mark, doctor?” Lessing asked with an inquisitive glance.

“Exactly, Dr. Lessing.”

“Which means,” the leader began, speaking slowly as he thought, “the marks represent tense, perhaps time. These are verbs.”

Again, Buhr was so impressed by his supervisor’s deductive skills, he smacked his hands together startling Lessing.

“Yes, sir! That’s exactly what it means. The lower mark represents past tense, the absence of a mark is present tense, and the upper mark is future tense.”

“How simplistic! Do you know what the translation is?”

“Yes, Dr. Lessing. It’s a verb meaning ‘to make’ or ‘to do’.”

“The top string, then, translates ‘made’, the center string is ‘makes’, and the third string is ‘will make’. Wonderful, Zeke. Terrific work. Do you believe the language is inflected?”

“It is sir. Note that top string. The subject is not the first symbol; it is the fifth one in the string following one of the articles. Note the similar mark on the article and on the subject symbols.”

“How many such symbols have you discovered?”

“It appears there are five inflections, Dr. Lessing. One is for the subject, one for the direct object, and three others used with certain prepositions to identify possession or location.”

“Like that first symbol?” Lessing asked as he looked up at Buhr.

Surprised once more by this man’s quick reasoning, Buhr stood erect.

“Correct again, sir! That first symbol is a frequent preposition in ‘Gamma’. I believe its best translation is ‘in’ though it may have other related meanings.”

Hezekiah Buhr hid his feeling of delight at how his presentation was proceeding. His plan was to get Dr. Lessing involved in the translation before revealing the source of the key. As he reached to turn the page to another example, though, Lessing asked a question which changed the direction of the meeting.

“Do you know what the translation of the subject of that first string is, Zeke?” Lessing asked as he continued to stare at the page before him, amazed at what Buhr had discovered.

Buhr, once more, stood erect, gathering his thoughts. He knew his next words would lead him down a path not appreciated by Dr. Lessing. He swallowed, licked his lips, and waited for just a few seconds.

“’God’, sir.”

Lessing looked up at his younger colleague. The smile had disappeared from the man’s face.

“’God’, you say?” Buhr nodded and his nod was acknowledged with a nod from Lessing. The supervisor resumed his examination of the page on the desk as he said, “So, the life forms on Proteus believe in a deity, too. Well, nothing unexpected there. Most civilizations develop a ‘belief’ in a divine being.”

“That’s true, Dr. Lessing,” Buhr responded quite sheepishly.

“Come on, Dr. Buhr,” Lessing replied. “I know what you believe, and you know I totally disregard your faith. You don’t need to be embarrassed by that. We can disagree on such matters. What we are about is not theology, it’s languages.”

Buhr did not know what to say so he simply stood to the left of the atheist. Lessing continued to examine the string, moving his finger from the bottom upward, pausing on each symbol. Buhr knew he was attempting to translate the entire string. Finally, Lessing leaned back in his seat, looked up at Buhr, and smiled broadly.

“This is truly great work, Dr. Buhr. Truly great. Have you shared this with the other members of our team or with Karpov’s team?”

“No, sir, not yet. I wanted you to hear my findings and confirm them before I moved on.”

Lessing nodded, agreeing with his intentions.

“So, tell me, Dr. Buhr, how did you come to these conclusions? What key did you find?”

Buhr gulped and took one small step backwards. The time had arrived.

“The Bible, sir.”

“The Bible? What do you mean by that, Buhr?”

Lessing sat quietly while Buhr patiently waited for some word, silently praying during that time. Finally, with much boldness, Dr. Hezekiah Buhr looked directly into Lessing’s face and began his defense.

“What opened my eyes to the translation key was actually string number 2964 in ‘Gamma-4’. Let me read to you my translation.” He reached down and flipped a couple of pages in the binder. “Here is string 2964 and my translation.”

Lessing looked down at the page and read Buhr’s work silently to himself.

“For the mighty (God) so loved the world that he has given his only offspring that whoever trusts in him will not be destroyed but will live forever.”

“Now,” Buhr resumed while Lessing continued to stare at the page. “I know you do not believe in God or the Bible but surely you recognize that translation to be John 3:16.”

Matthew Lessing said nothing. He refused to acknowledge with his lips what his heart knew to be true. He had heard John 3:16 quoted hundreds of time. He, himself, had quoted it as a child and teenager. Yet, his hatred of religion and his hatred of the man on the other side of the desk prevented him from answering the believing linguist.

“Then,” Buhr continued, “I noticed some of the same alien etchings were contained in the very first string of ‘Gamma-1’, the very string we just examined.” Without asking, he flipped the pages back to the first page even while Lessing continued to gaze at the book. “I was able to quickly translate that string as well: ‘In the start the mighty (God) made heaven and the world.’ Clearly this is the message of Genesis 1:1, Dr. Lessing.”

Finally, Lessing placed his left hand under the cover of the binder and slammed it shut. He looked up at his associate’s face, a frown replacing the recent smile, anger substituting for joy.

“So,” said Lessing, his voice rising with each syllable, “you’re telling me that beings living on a moon of Neptune took the time and effort to communicate with us on earth and what they sent us is the translation of our Bible in their language? Why would they do that, Buhr? What sense is there in that? It’s a foolish idea! And where would they get a copy of our Bible in order to translate? And how in the world would they know how to translate our Bible into their language? Come on, Buhr, do you take me for an idiot? You are one sick religious fanatic and need help!”

Lessing’s eyes grew redder and his glare intensified with each sentence. His face flushed bright red. Those eyes penetrated Buhr’s soul and Buhr could feel the hatred swelling in the man. He would not be convinced. He would refuse all such attempts. Lessing rose slowly from his chair and, as he did, Buhr stepped slowly around the side of the desk.

“Are you toying with me, Buhr? This is ridiculous!”

“No, sir,” Buhr sheepishly replied. “At first, I found it impossible to believe as well.”

“Oh, I’m sure you, the great Christian, couldn’t believe what you were reading.”

“I’m,… I don’t consider myself a great Chris…”

“Come off it, Buhr! You’re making this up. You’ve taken your religious beliefs and forced them upon your translation.”

“No, Dr. Lessing. Truly, I have not!”

“Unbelievable that you think I am that gullible. Did you expect me to swallow your nonsense hook, line, and sinker?”

Buhr was uncertain how to proceed. He had reached the far side of the desk and considered continuing out the door. Instead, he paused and silently prayed. He remained silent as Lessing continued his tirade against him. Once he had finished, Lessing sat back down behind his desk. Buhr decided to continue.

“Sir, if I may, allow me to show you some statistics. If you remember, several months ago, our team examined the approximate number of strings in each section of ‘Gamma’. Those numbers caught my attention and, much to my surprise, confirm what I am telling you.”

Lessing said nothing. He merely glared at his subordinate. Buhr reached across the desk and slowly re-opened the binder to a page documenting the string counts. Lessing glanced at the page and saw the comparison of those counts and the number of verses in each division of the Scriptures. He waved his hand over the paper on which they were written, dismissing the numbers.

“Coincidence, Buhr. Merely coincidence. Doesn’t prove a thing.”

“I, too, thought it was also a coincidence, Dr. Lessing. But, I then compared some of the strings with corresponding Bible verses and found something astonishing. For example, around string 2900 on my disk, I translated one string as follows: ‘In start was the word and the word was with the mighty (God) and mighty (God) was the word.’ Obviously, this string reads just like John chapter 1 and verse 1. It’s virtually identical!”

Lessing leaped to his feet once more, slammed the book closed, pounded on it with his fist, and shoved it off his desk. Buhr’s binder hit the floor almost smashing the toes of its author. Buhr had never seen the man so angry in his eight years at the Institute. Nothing was said for several seconds as Lessing hammered his desk over and over. Finally, regaining his composure, the leader sat back down.

“I really think you need help, Dr. Buhr. You have permitted your religion to take control of your thinking. You’re reading into the alien language what you want to see. Well, it makes no sense, Buhr, no sense. Aliens on Proteus have no access to our Bible. There is no good reason why they would translate an English Bible into their language. In fact, they would not know how to do so. And it makes no sense that, if they did do what you claim, why they would send us their translation of our Bible. Foolishness, Buhr, foolishness.”

“Dr. Lessing,” Buhr replied nervously, “that’s not what I’m saying. Oh, I initially thought ‘Gamma’ was their translation of our Bible. But, I soon discovered that’s not what it is, not completely. You see, ‘Gamma’ is THEIR Bible. It’s THEIR story, THEIR history, THEIR message, not a translation of our Bible.”

For several seconds, no one spoke. Lessing glared at Buhr with a growing hatred. Finally, he spoke, his deep voice louder than it had been.

“Come on,” he said, rolling his eyes in disbelief. “The creatures on Proteus have their own Bible that happens to have some of the same verses as our Bible? Do you take me for a fool, Buhr? What nonsense.”

“I’m afraid it’s true, Dr. Lessing. The aliens on Proteus have experienced a history much like our own. Their theology is, essentially, Christian.” He reached down and picked up his binder then flipped it to a specific page. “If I may, sir, I can summarize what I have found from the subset of translation work I have done.”

Lessing reclined in his chair, ready to have the man removed from his office. He was irate and wanted to hear nothing further from this linguist. In his heart, he determined Buhr must be removed from the project and his work destroyed so that others working on the translation would not be tempted to pursue Buhr’s wild claims. He glanced at Buhr’s face then at his watch. Reluctantly, he stared at the linguist standing before him and angrily responded.

“You have five minutes, Buhr.” Lessing spoke the words as though they were the last words Buhr would ever hear.

“Sir, I have translated roughly the first third of ‘Gamma-4’ plus several other smaller portions of the other three ‘Gamma’ divisions. I’ve summarized the history of the Protei according to what I have learned from ‘Gamma’.

“First, they, Proteus, and the universe was created in a single act by a mighty being, namely, God.

“Second, the earliest Protei rebelled against their creator, disobeyed him, resulting in darkness and chaos on Proteus. While I am not certain, I think it was at this time that the aliens left the surface of their world for the interior.

“Third, the descendants continued to live wickedly. God promised to send one to deliver them from their wickedness.

“Fourth, the deliverer arrived not as expected. He (or it) came as a new creature. He lived in the same way any creature on Proteus would live except he did what God wanted him to do.

“Fifth, certain Protei rejected this deliverer, claiming he was a fraud. As a result, they killed him.

“Sixth, after three days of death on Proteus, the deliverer suddenly appeared fully alive.

“Seventh, the Protei who follow the teachings of the deliverer claim those who trust in him will never die but those who do not are doomed.”

Lessing held up his hand, halting any further words. He slowly rose to his feet, standing directly across from Buhr.

“Dr. Buhr, how could you? How could such a reputable linguist contrive such a story and concoct such so-called evidence? You’ve twisted the markings of the stone, so the translation reads as you want it to read.”

“No, Dr. Lessing,” the younger linguist pleaded with his superior. “That’s not what I have done. What I am sharing with you is the result of honest research and careful analysis. The string counts match the number of verses in the Bible. Many of the strings I have translated match the translation of corresponding Bible verses.”

Lessing threw up his hands into the air and let out a moan that was clearly heard throughout the offices of the Linguistic Institute. Buhr took a step backward from the desk in fear Lessing was on the verge of physically assaulting him. When Lessing’s eyes returned their gaze on the translator, there was no question the senior member of the team was on the verge of physically assaulting the man.

Only God or an angel prevented Lessing from reaching across his desk and smashing Buhr in the face. He certainly wanted to as his expression and demeanor indicated. Instead, the brilliant linguist screamed at the man and covered his ears.

“You’re insane, Buhr. Get out of here!”

“You see, Dr. Lessing,” Buhr continued as he closed his binder and turned for the door, “God created life on Proteus as He did here on earth. They, like us, sinned. God sent them a deliverer as He sent us Jesus to rescue us from sin. The Word of God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Pulling down his hands from his ears, Lessing screamed across the room at the translator.

“You, sir, are an imbecile. Now you are claiming Jesus, a person who never existed, doctor, was on Proteus, too. What a terrible deception you are attempting to pull on me, our team, and on society. Get out of my office and, in fact, get out of this building. You are dismissed from this project. I expect you to return all your work and documentation to this office by the end of the day!”

Buhr quickly stepped to the door, opened it, and backed out of the office as Lessing concluded his tirade. Those working in the office on that afternoon were standing, listening to Lessing’s final commands to Buhr. They knew the latter’s fate had been sealed.

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