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“You see, it makes a perfect square,” Private Peter Lawrence held up the map and pointed to the four sites marked with small black exes. We had indeed found the four ruins and they did indeed form a rough square, although just how perfect was open for debate. We had heard Private Lawrence’s theories before. He was full of theories. They came tumbling out of him ever since we stumbled upon the first ruined tower. “I know you think it’s a coincidence but it’s not. I tell you there’s something here.” He pointed to the center of the square where two faintly drawn diagonals crossed.
“That’s quite an assumption,” said Lt. Crabtree who wasn’t a man of many words.
“It’s also a full day out of our way over some pretty rough country,” I added for good measure. We were a three man survey team trying to make a rough map of of Amacor’s ruins. This Earth-like planet was beautiful and lush. Covered with thick vegetation and no known predators. Our archeological finds were an unexpected bonus. “Other teams have found whole ruined cities,” I said. “What makes you think these towers are anything special?”
“At least ask headquarters if they think it’s a worthwhile diversion,” Pvt. Lawrence pleaded.
“Okay if it will shut you up.” Lt. Crabtree thumbed his com. “But if they say ‘no’, I don’t want to hear anymore about it. Agreed?” Pete nodded and the Lieutenant called it in.
“Hey, don’t I get a vote?” I asked.
“No,” they both replied in unison. So the Lt. called in our position and the position of our last find and proposed that there might be something interesting in the center of the square. To our surprise headquarters agreed. I never saw a happier man or a bigger grin than I saw on Peter Lawrence’s face that day. He leaped around and pumped his fist in the air like he had just scored the winning touchdown.
We were supposed to be heading North but instead we turned South West and worked our way down the diagonal toward the square’s mythical center. The ruins we had found that formed the corners of the square, were mystifying. They were the remnants of large towers made from native stone bound together with some epoxy-like cement. The four towers contained similar markings written in a large face. They all said the same thing but what was said was not anything any human could read. Pvt. Lawrence had all kinds of theories about what was written. “Don’t you find it interesting that all the towers say the same thing?” he asked us. “I bet it’s a warning to keep out. Maybe the towers held a force field. Maybe it was a prison of some sort? Or a zoo? Maybe there were monsters locked in here.” Peter had an over-active imagination.
We walked down the diagonal lost in our own thoughts. The day was warm and the air alive with Amacor’s insects none of which recognized us as food, fortunately. The lieutenant was leading us over hilly terrain, up and down steep rocky slopes. We followed streams where we could but they often ended in waterfalls or underground springs. After three hours of hard going, the lieutenant called for a break. I broke out an energy bar. Lt. Crabtree was sipping from his canteen. Peter announced he was going off to take a leak. He was only gone a few seconds when we heard him yell, “Hey fellas, come and see what I found.”
We jumped to our feet and and ran over to see what it was. There on the ground was the broken remains of a statue of an alien or perhaps one of the alien gods. The statue was made out of that same epoxy-like cement we had seen holding the towers together. “If that’s life size,” Peter Lawrence said, “these guys were huge.” What we were looking at were the feet of the statue broken off at its ankles. The feet were shod in some curious sandal and were a good two feet from toe to heel. We followed the vine covered legs to the torso and finally reached the alien’s head. The enormous head looked nothing like we expected an alien to look. Why would it? We took copious photographs and sent them up to HQ where I was sure they caused great excitement. This was the first time anyone had seen what another intelligent race looked like. We just didn’t know if it was to scale. The lieutenant located the exact spot. Certainly the archeo boys would be swarming all over this place before long.
We moved on toward the center which wasn’t much further. Peter Lawrence’s imagination was working overtime. “Maybe this was a temple of some sort, you know, a sacred place. Maybe that was a statue of their god. Or maybe it was their leader and we are approaching his palace. Maybe the signs on the towers were ‘No Trespassing” signs?” Peter chattered on and on as we made our way over the steepest terrain yet. Finally we could see from the last rise where we were heading and indeed there was something special there. Just ahead was a large flat space, a platform or plateau forming an unnatural space in the middle of the jungle. “Whoo hoo,” cried Peter Lawrence rushing ahead. “What did I tell you?”. We had to admit the boy was right. We had stumbled on something interesting.
We reached the platform just as Amacor’s big red sun was setting. We were bushed but not too tired to admire the spectacle. Amacor is a huge planet with a slow rotation. Sunsets are long, drawn out affairs. There were still a few hours of daylight left. We made camp in the only logical place, on the flat platform itself. “This can’t be natural,” Peter said. “This was scraped flat deliberately. Look at the size of it.” It was impressive. The level space must have been 100 yards on a side and appeared perfectly square. The top layer of the plateau was covered in the now familiar epoxy-like cement. In the exact center of the platform was a square, featureless structure. A blank cube about ten feet on a side. The cube revealed neither crack nor seam. The only item breaking its featureless symmetry was a button on one of the cube’s faces.
Lt. Crabtree snapped a dozen pictures of the cube and its mysterious button and sent them back to base. It was an exciting find and an fitting conclusion to an exhausting day. We were all tired but that button fascinated us. “Let’s push it,” Private Lawrence urged.
“You have to be kidding,” I said.
The Lieutenant shook his head. “Let’s get some sleep and we’ll see what HQ has to say.”
“Oh come on, Lieutenant, this is the find of the century. You know what that cube is, don’t you? It’s an elevator. Just below us is the royal palace. It’s probably filled with fabulous artifacts, unbelievable treasures, technological marvels. Don’t you want to see what’s down there? You really want to turn this over to archeology? Let them get the credit? This is our find. I say we push the button and get our names into the history books.”
I hated to admit it, but Peter had a point. He looked at Lt. Crabtree. “So, what do you say, Lieutenant? Do we push it?” I could see the hope and longing in Peter’s eyes.
I wasn’t so sure. The prospect excited me but still we were dealing with a lot of unknowns. “You know we are dealing with aliens here,” I said. “What if we push the button and the whole place explodes? Or we unleash a swarm of killer robots? Who knows what could happen?”
“That’s true, we don’t know but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? To find out.” Peter was practically pleading with us.
Lieutenant Crabtree scratched his head and surprised us both by saying, “What the hell, push the damn thing. We all gotta die sometime.” Then he stood up and stopped Private Lawrence before he could run over and push the button right then and there. “Hold on a second while Jake and I take cover just in case you do trigger an explosion.” So the Lieutenant and I high tailed it to the edge of the platform and ducked down where we could watch Peter and still be protected.
Looking back on the whole incident now, I have to laugh. How could we have expected something so old to be capable of doing anything? At the time we believed everything our imaginations threw at us. We were young and naive, what can I say? Peter made the most of his dramatic moment, holding his finger over the button a few seconds longer than necessary. But guys like him don’t have second thoughts, they are impulsive and reckless creatures so, of course he pushed the button and, of course, nothing happened. No green flash; no elevator door opening; no explosion; no horde of killer robots; no alarms; no nothing, only one hell of a story. A story I have now told a million times since my return.
The last I heard, the ruins on Amacor continue to be a rich source of scholarship and speculation. They have also become a major tourist attraction in that region of the galaxy. Every visitor wants his picture taken with his finger on the button. As for me, Crabtree and Lawrence, our roles in the discovery are forgotten, pretty much what you would expect. Some stories just end like that. A good story to tell around a dinner table or sitting at a bar— entertaining, nothing more.
Modelling_Mushi - Liked it, loved the ending.
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