A small cube of black rock has been unearthed in a 3500-year-old Mycenaean tomb.
An incomprehensible object in an impossible place; its age,its purpose, and its origins are unknown.
Its discovery has unleashed a global storm of intrigue, theft andespionage, and is pushing nations to the brink of war.
Its substance has scientists baffled. And the miracle it contains does not belong on this Earth.
It is mystery and madness -- an enigma with no equal in recordedhistory. It is mankind's greatest discovery ... and worst nightmare.
It may have already obliterated a world. Ours is next.A small cube of black rock has been unearthed in a 3500-year-old Mycenaen tomb.
An incomprehensible object in an impossible place; its age, its purpose, and its origins are unknown.
Its discovery has unleashed a global storm of intrigue, theft and espionage, and is pushing nations to the brink of war.
Its substance has scientist baffled. And the miracle it contains does not belong on this Earth.
It is mystery and madness-an enigma with no equal in recorded history. It is mankind's greatest discovery. . .and worst nightmare.
It may have already obliterated a world. Ours is next.
Author: Gregory Benford
Deep inside the tomb they barely heard the snarl of an approaching vehicle.
"That'll be Kontos," George said, putting down his calipers.
"It doesn't sound like his car." Claire carefully punched her computer inventory on HOLD.
"Who else would come out here? That union moron?"
"Come on, I'll bet you it's Kontos."
"Wait a sec."
Claire shut down the inventory program. She was checking the last catalog numbers of potsherds against the printout manifest, a tedious job. The computerized field inventory was a marvel, neatly organizing six months of archeological data. It could be hypertexted and correlated with a single keystroke. Scarcely the size of a water glass, it carried six months' worth of archeological data.
She brushed off her hands and walked out under the lintel of the huge stone doorway, into the midmorning sun. Every day was slightly cooler now and she thought fondly of the green bowers along the Charles River, the silent glassy water and crisp red brick. She was tired of the colors of Greece, however sharp and exotic. Wand, young cypress trees speared the pale sky. The heat haze of summer was gone and she could make out distant dry canyons that sloped toward the Aegean. Empty stream beds carved bone-white curves down the spine of each canyon, shimmering like discarded snake skins.
High above, a hawk lazed on thermals rising from the sea. Shading her eyes against the glare, she pondered how irrelevant the narrow valley would look from up there -- tawny hills crisp from the drying winds, a gray grid of the GreekAmerican excavation, brown rutted paths worn by the digging crews, all bordering a sweep of steel-blue sea. Or perhaps the hawk glided above such signs with indifference, much as when the stone walls sheltered a living, vibrant race. Man's strivings would seem like mere background noise from up there, compared to the squeak and rustle of prey.
The hawk banked and began a descending gyre, intent on essentials.
She started down the rocky path. A jeep braked noisily to a stop several hundred meters away, where the dirt road met the work camp. A plume of tan dust enveloped it.
"So he's got a dapper little jeep now," she said.
"Very fashion conscious, is the Colonel."
As they descended she heard quick, agitated talking. From his tone she identified Doctor Alexandros Kontos, the Greek co-director of the dig, well before she could recognize him standing beside the jeep. He was speaking rapidly and angrily to the "camp man" -- a weathered brown figure who stood and took the abuse without blinking.
Kontos did not glance up at Claire and George as they wound their way down the hill among the few remaining tents of the camp, and approached the jeep. Claire could not follow all the colloquialisms and rapid-fire slang that tumbled out of Kontos, but it was clear that he blamed the camp man for the absence of the manual laborers. His target merely shrugged, explaining that the men were either involved in the spreading political meetings and demonstrations, or afraid to work for Americans out of fear of disapproval by their friends, or both.
Kontos slapped his hand on the jeep in exasperation. "Get them back!" he shouted in Greek. Then he saw Claire and his manner abruptly changed.
"Ah! The lovely Claire. I hope the absence of these ignorant peasants has not perturbed you."
"Not at all. We didn't have a great deal of work left when -- "
"Excellent. Great things happen in Athens and I will not have time for this site now. It is well you be on your way."
"What things?" George asked.
Kontos' face altered as he turned to George, the strong jaw jutting out more. "Nothing you would approve, that I am sure."
George grinned wryly. "Try me."
"The divisive times, they are finished. The center parties, they come over to our side."
"What'll you end up with? A one-party state?"
"And the other parties?"
"In time they follow."
Kontos was wearing a smartly tailored Army uniform that showed off his thick biceps and bulging chest very well. His hat, with freshly shined braid, adorned a full head of gleaming black hair. The long, somewhat sallow face was saved from thinness by the interruption of a bushy moustache. His tan almost concealed the fine webbing of lines at the eyes that gave away his age -- mid-forties, Claire guessed-better than anything else.
George said blandly, "No doubt."
"This is why I must break off my stay here with you." He turned to Claire and his face brightened again. "It will be a sad thing to be parting. Very sad."
Claire said, "But there's still work to finish!"
"I will get the laborers back. This lizard" -- he jerked a thumb at the camp man -- "will stop lying in the sun. He will go to the village, round them in."
"There's chemical analysis, some soil studies, on-site metallurgy -- "
"Ohi, ohi." He shook his head violently. "That we do in Athens."
"Who will? I know -- Ministry lab techs. But they haven't visited the site, they don't know everything to do." Claire defiantly put her hands on her hips.
"You will write instructions."
"There are always idiosyncratic features, samples that have to be treated differently. There's no replacement for being -- "
"Your Greek is excellent," Kontos said smoothly in Greek, smiling. "They will understand."
George put in, "Come on, Alex, soil analysis is in the schedule, you can look it up."
"A secondary consideration now, this schedule."
"It was agreed!" Claire said. "We have nearly a month left."
"ON!" Kontos narrowed his heavy-lidded eyes -- the expression, Claire saw, that had produced the crescent lines that fanned back from his eyes almost to his ears. In English he said sharply, "These are not treaties or contracts, these schedules. They can be withdrawn."