The Cedarbrook Capsule

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Chapter 8: Gamma

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dr. Matthew Lessing ran the Linguistic Institute located in Dallas, Texas and had done so for over ten years. Considered the most brilliant linguist in the world (at least in his own eyes), Sanger had immediately decided Lessing and his team would be given the largest of the three capsule artifacts, ‘Gamma’.

When contacted in early June, Lessing chose four of his fellow linguists to serve under his direction and analyze this strange metallic elliptical object. Each of these team members had worked at the Institute for at least five years, had earned doctorate degrees in languages, and were well respected in the field of linguistics via appearances and publications.

Lessing was a devout atheist, a man who greatly despised religion, especially Christianity. His hatred of the Christian faith had developed during his teenage years partly because his father had been an evangelical pastor. By the end of his undergraduate years, atheism had taken its root in his heart, and subsequent years had only strengthened it. While languages were his principal field, Lessing would never shy away from questions concerning religion, languages on other planets, or the origin of the universe. Rejecting religion, Lessing confidently held to the secular worldview of origins and was convinced life had evolved not only on earth but also on other worlds. Each such life form would naturally develop their own language of communication. Lessing was an active participant in SETI, the only linguist associated with that organization.

While most of those who worked at the Institute were not as outspoken on these subjects as Lessing, the majority, when questioned, would have agreed with most of Lessing’s beliefs. However, there were two reputable linguists in the office who strongly disagreed with their executive, namely Dr. Patricia Collins and Dr. Hezekiah Buhr. Furthermore, Lessing had little time and less respect for those who disagreed with his positions. Yet, it would be impossible for Lessing to form a team of five and not include at least one of these two individuals. Reluctantly, Lessing chose Buhr as the last member of the “Gamma” team.

Hezekiah Buhr was in his seventh year at the Linguistic Institute and well-known by all in the field. His expertise was European languages, eight in which he was fluent. Buhr was a devout Christian, an active member in a local church, and a man who had no problems sharing his faith when the opportunity arose. “Zeke”, as he was called, did not spend his workday spreading his beliefs, but, if asked, he would take the time to give a theological reply. Such behavior was tolerated by his co-workers but infuriated Lessing. Nevertheless, Lessing had no choice but to include the man on his team. His background was too indispensable to ignore.

“Gamma” arrived in Dallas a week after the press conference and Lessing presented the strategy they would use to research the object. It was the thickest of the three artifacts, consisting of forty hinged elliptical metal disks. Lessing quickly noted that every tenth disk was partially empty on “side 2”. His conclusion was that “Gamma” should be divided into four sections, each comprised of ten disks. Therefore, each team member would be assigned to work on one of these four sections. Members received enlarged copies of all the stones but were to focus their attention and efforts on their assigned “section”.

Furthermore, the team was to assume they were working on translating some unknown earthly language. They would meet daily to share anything they uncovered. Lessing would do an overall survey of “Gamma” as well as stay in touch with both Gerhard and Karpov.

Frustration grew in the ensuing days of research. Buhr was assigned the fourth section (referred to as “Gamma-4”), but all he could see were unusual scratch marks intermixed with unknown symbols. His fellow team members were having similar difficulties. The daily meeting became quite routine and predictable: found nothing, no idea, nothing new from the “Alpha” or “Beta” teams.

Then came the call from Sanger. Gerhard’s team had discovered the “map” and the “bottom-up” method for examination. The team now knew they were, most likely, examining an alien tongue.

The realization aliens existed and were communicating with earth brought all joy to Lessing’s heart. He shared this news with great satisfaction to his team, glaring at Buhr throughout his pronouncement. It was as though he was telling Buhr, “Well, what do you think of your religion now? Aliens on another world disprove your entire creation account. It undermines your entire theology.” Even though such words were never spoken, Buhr could sense Lessing’s animosity towards him and his faith and the executive’s delight in believing his “faith” had been validated.

Two weeks after the Gerhard report, word arrived from Karpov’s team. The Russians shared that “Beta” was probably an introductory memo of some kind because the symbol “E-A-R-T-H” appeared at the beginning of the document.

The Lessing team did an immediate computer scan of the “Gamma” disk photographs. No such markings were found.

By late August, the team in Dallas had made little translation progress. The markings had such minor differences, examining them demanded great patience. The “Beta” and “Gamma” teams agreed the etchings appeared to come in “strings” with the end of a “string” distinctively marked. Exactly what a “string” was (or even if it was anything) was uncertain. Without a Rosetta stone, their efforts were as fruitless as those of the “Beta” team.

On that August Wednesday, Dr. Lessing’s team took an approximate count of the strings in each section and, at their team meeting, Buhr jotted down those counts in his notes.

“Gamma-1: Dr. Galvin – approximately 5900 strings.”

“Gamma-2: Dr. McFarland – approximately 9300 strings.”

“Gamma-3: Dr. Rudosky – approximately 8100 strings.”

“Gamma-4: Me – approximately 8000 strings.”

“Strange how ’Gamma-1” contains so many fewer strings than the other three,” Buhr noted during the meeting. “I mean why weren’t some of the strings from the other sections moved to ‘Gamma-1’ which has extra room?”

“It does seem strange the information would not have been more evenly divided among all four disks,” remarked Rudosky.

“Perhaps each section describes a different subject matter,” proposed McFarland.

“Hmmm, maybe. That’s certainly possible and makes good sense,” agreed Galvin. “I think we can all agree there was some logical reason why our alien friends divided the data in such a way.”

“Yes,” said Rudosky. “If these aliens are intelligent enough to assemble all of this and send it to earth, they must have had a reason organizing the disks in this way.”

“These numbers seem somewhat familiar,” said Buhr, staring at the sheet of paper before him. “Seems like I’ve seen something like this before.”

“If the aliens intentionally sectioned the data,” said Rudosky, “why four? Why not three or five or more?”

“Earth, air, water, fire?” asked Galvin.

“Not likely any of those are known on Proteus, Dr. Galvin,” replied Buhr.

“East, west, north, south?” speculated McFarland.

“Maybe past, present, and future,” replied Galvin. The other members stared quizzically at him.

“That’s only three, doc,” chuckled Rudosky. The others laughed as well.

“Well,” retorted Galvin, “how about ‘our origin’, ‘our past’, ‘our present’, ‘our future’?”

No one laughed this time. Lessing, who had sat quietly throughout the meeting, listening to the interchange of his project members, finally spoke.

“Truth is, we are only guessing at their intentions. Perhaps they had none. For now, I suggest we simply work on the translation and leave all speculations for a later date. Maybe a key is hidden somewhere among the disks.”

With that, the daily meeting came to an end and each member returned to their desk and continued their research.

On that same day, in Moscow, Dr. Elaina Popov was carefully examining “Beta” in the vicinity of the symbol “E-A-R-T-H”. She had studied this section for weeks, but it wasn’t until this moment that the scratch marks caught her eye. She saw it!

The strange marks surrounding the mysterious appearance of the word ‘earth’ were nowhere else on the artifact. Popov stared at them and came to a simple conclusion: those marks represented quotations or parentheses. They were marking off the word ‘earth’. Therefore, the markings before or after these letters may be the alien’s word to describe either the name they have for earth or their word meaning “planet” or “world”.

Popov shared her thoughts with Kuznetsov and Karpov. The latter agreed with her conclusion. Within an hour, the Lessing team had the news: the “Beta” team had a potential key!

Excitement broke out not only in Moscow but also among the Lessing team in Dallas. Immediately, all researchers were scanning their disks for the appearance of the markings Popov found preceding and trailing the letters “E-A-R-T-H”. While the Moscow team found the former symbols an additional time in “Beta”, Lessing’s team found them repeatedly in “Gamma”. In fact, the Dallas linguists repeatedly found those markings on several of the disks. Both teams agreed that these symbols were, most likely, the Protei symbols for “world” or “planet”.

Although Buhr’s responsibilities rested on ‘Gamma-4’, Zeke glanced at the other three sections. There, on ‘Gamma-1’ at the very beginning of the first disk appeared the identical word. For reasons unknown, this truth and the string counts he had made at their meeting gnawed at his mind. There was something quite familiar about all of this. He just couldn’t put it together.

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