To next chapter (Chapter 13)




The two walked downstairs to the first landing. Jennifer gestured for Robert to keep back until she made sure Carl wouldn’t see them. Then they hurried past the entranceway to the main room, where they picked up a couple of powerful flashlights and went down the first flight of stairs under the floor, through the door, and down the long staircase into the basement. From the bottom of the stairs, they walked east toward the front of the house along the road-like feature that ran between the wall of the Earth Temple and the pit. The crew had set up lighting only along a narrow path from the stairs to the front of the Room of Dangers, so Robert and Jennifer soon found themselves walking into darkness. When they reached the dimly lit front wall of the basement, past the Room of Dangers on their right, they switched on their flashlights and walked, with Robert in front, into the pitch-black northeast corner, aiming their flashlights at the floor and wall.

“Look at this,” Robert said.

Jennifer caught up to him and saw he was illuminating a piece of drapery that partially covered an entrance into another room. Robert pulled the drape open and shined his flashlight on the interior. Inside the tiny alcove, they saw a roughhewn round table and four chairs.

Robert and Jennifer went into the little room and shined their beams around the space. The walls looked plain, with no sign of a tunnel entrance.

“If the door to the tunnel was obvious,” Robert said, “Kholoruuf wouldn’t have had to leave clues about it.”

“You’re right,” Jennifer said. “but it’s got to be here.”

Robert looked at the corners of the small room. “No switches or buttons.”

Jennifer examined the floor and the furniture. “Nothing,” she said. She shined her light up to the ceiling. “There’s a light fixture up there.”

Robert looked up at it. An opaque, white sphere about an inch in diameter hung down at the end of a short wire from a hole in the ceiling. Dangling beside the sphere was a pull chain. “Maybe if you pull on the chain the right way…” Robert said.

“Maybe,” Jennifer said.

Robert walked over to the entranceway and shined his flashlight onto the curtain-rod brackets. He examined one of the rings that held the rod in place. Then he aimed his beam at the other one. “This one’s serrated,” he said. “The other one isn’t. Let me see if I can turn this one.” He grabbed the ring and twisted it. A loud click came from the wall opposite the entrance.

Jennifer laughed. “There you go,” she said.

“Pretty obvious…if you’re looking for it.” They trained their lights on the far wall. “Any change?” Robert asked.

Jennifer walked over to the far-right corner. “Yeah. The walls have separated here.”

Robert looked at the gap. Then he pushed on the wall and felt it give a little. He put a couple of fingers into the opening and tried to slide the wall to the left. It moved a little. He handed his flashlight to Jennifer and, using both hands, pulled harder. The entire wall slid over about two and a half feet then stopped, revealing an open space behind the wall.

“OK,” Robert said. “Here we go.”

Jennifer handed him his flashlight, and they both shined their lights into the opening, illuminating a very long tunnel that slanted downward; it was completely straight, with the floor, ceiling, and walls made of ribbed metal.

“Let’s go,” Robert said, stepping into the tunnel.

A few steps in, the tunnel was wider, and Robert and Jennifer walked easily down it. Robert smiled. “Claustrophobic?” he said.

“Me? An archaeologist? No way,” Jennifer said with a laugh.

They passed two places where the tunnel was distorted and had cracked open, no doubt due to geological forces, and where some rock and soil had accumulated, but they had no trouble getting around the obstructions.

It took them about five minutes to get to the small room at the end of the tunnel. It had four walls along with a doorway to the right and one to the left. “I guess we’re under where the tower was,” Robert said.

“I bet we are,” Jennifer said. She went to the doorway on the right and shined her light into the opening. “An ascending stairway,” she said, “but it’s blocked up there by rubble.”

Robert looked into the doorway on the left. “Descending stairs,” he said. “Come on.”

The two walked down the short flight of stone stairs and found themselves in a wide room, facing a long, smooth wall with a door in the middle of it. When they reached the door, they saw it was made of dark metal and was covered by scenes, in relief, of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. There was a wrought iron handle on the right in the shape of two flat teardrops connected at the round ends. They shined their lights on the handle.

“No sign of a lock or keyhole,” Jennifer said.

Robert grabbed the handle and tried to twist it.

“Is it moving at all?” she asked.

“I think I felt it turn a little.” He tried twisting it again. “I definitely felt it move that time.”

Jennifer placed her hand on his shoulder. With another twist he gave the handle a good turn. “It’s coming,” he said.

The next turn resulted in a loud click, and the door moved slightly ajar.

Jennifer giggled.

“Cool,” Robert said.

He pushed on the door, and little by little, he opened it. When the door was open wide enough for them to walk through, they shined their flashlights into the dark space.

“Can’t see much…” Robert said.

“Yeah, but it looks like a really big room.”

Robert went through the door and, instantly, lights went on inside, dimly illuminating the entire room.

“Whoa,” Robert said, and instinctively backed up. Then the lights went out. “Did you see that? Did you see what was in there?”

“Yes, I saw it. There’s a whole city in there.”

“It must be an automatic light switch,” Robert said, as he stepped into the space once more and the dim light came on again. Jennifer followed him, and the two turned off their flashlights and gazed at the incredible scene before them.

They were in a vast underground chamber. Two hundred feet or so in front of them was a raised platform, as wide as the cavern, with stone steps that led up to it, and on the platform there were a number of buildings. The closest was directly in front of them, on a hill a couple hundred yards away, and looked to be made of stone. It was about thirty feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet tall, with a pitched roof. Toward the right was a somewhat larger building that also had a pitched roof.

the underground chamber

The underground chamber

Beyond that structure was a larger building on the left. And Jennifer and Robert saw even larger buildings beyond that one. The next on the left was cube shaped with what, in the dim light, appeared to be a golden cornice. Attached to the more distant buildings were what looked like gardens full of plants.

The buildings stood on either side of a central path defined by a curb that ran down the center of the cavern away from the steps. The path started at the top of the stairs then curved left to the foot of a staircase that led up to the small pitched-roofed building. From there it went off to the right to the door of the larger pitched-roof building, and from that door, the path curved left again to the door of the next building, and so on.

The space was lit by a large number of lamps on poles that stood along the path and in many other locations. The cavern’s ceiling, so high above that it was in fairly deep shadow, had a rough, unfinished appearance.

The structures were larger in the distance. The most distant building on the right had rectangular walls and a flat roof and was enormous. Behind it was a low, gray wall, then a white wall, only a portion of which was visible between the largest buildings. Built onto this wall were several levels of what appeared to be columned porches or walkways, and behind and above it, just in front of the cavern’s far wall, was a white-and-blue tower.

None of the buildings had windows.

“What is this place?” Robert whispered. They stood in silence for a moment. Then Robert spoke again. “This has to be what they called the Great Place for Humankind. The Atlanians discovered it, and now, more than fourteen thousand years later, we’ve rediscovered it. But what kind of a place is it? And who built it?”

“These aren’t ruins,” Jennifer said. “This place is being kept up…by someone.”

“Well, the lights were out when we opened the door, so I wonder if we can assume we’re alone in here.”

Jennifer took out her cell phone and snapped a picture. Then she and Robert walked to their right so they could see directly up the stairs and down the wide avenue. Robert looked back at the wall behind them. It extended hundreds of yards vertically and horizontally and seemed to be made of square stones, each about six feet on each side, and each separated from its neighbors by strips of brown or copper-colored metal.

“Do you hear that humming sound?” Jennifer asked.

“Yeah. Very faintly. Like a generator someplace?”

“But if others are here with us, who in the world could they be?”

“Descendants of the Atlanians maybe?” Robert said. “Members of some kind of secret society carrying on the tradition? Caretakers of the Great Place?”

“What should we do now? I have to say, this almost feels more like trespassing than an archaeological investigation. Maybe we should go back, take care of things, then return more fully prepared, and try to get permission from…whomever?”

“We may not be welcome here,” Robert said. “But don’t we have to know what we’re dealing with? Besides, I couldn’t be more curious.”

“Me either. I’m all for taking a look around,” Jennifer said with a smile. “I do have this gun with me, you know.”

“Let’s look around then…but cautiously.”

They walked together down sloping terrain toward the stairs.

When they reached the bottom of the broad staircase, Robert spotted an object at the top, at the head of the central banister. “What’s that?” he asked.

Guardedly, not knowing what to expect, they walked up the stairs toward the object. As they approached the thing, they saw it consisted of a pole, about three and a half feet tall, which supported an egg-shaped canister with a clear top. To the left and right, supporting the canister, were blue stone sculptures in the form of what may have been stylized ocean waves. Two red wheel-shaped forms leaned against the canister on both sides.

They got to the top of the stairs and stood beside the canister. Through the transparent top, they saw that the only thing inside was a small, white marble cup.

Jennifer bent over and examined the rim that ran around the canister below the edge of the clear dome. “Look, Robert,” she said. “Little bas reliefs of…bacteria? Single-celled organisms?”

Robert took a look. “Definitely. I wonder if that means there are bacteria inside it, in that cup.”

Jennifer stood up. “Could be. But why would they be there?”

They followed the path to the little hill and walked up the long flight of steps to the small building with the pitched roof. Stopping beside the open doorway, they peered into the smallish front room and saw it was lit by a single lamp, a glowing sphere that dangled from the middle of the ceiling. They entered the building and found themselves facing a wall on which a large, dark metal disk was mounted. On the disk’s bulging surface was a raised shape that clearly represented a landmass, with its mountains, rivers, lakes, bays, and peninsulas. Jennifer immediately recognized the features of the disk.

“A map of the early earth,” she said. “Just like the maps in the atlas in the study.”

Robert walked over to the plaque. “Yes,” he said. “You can see the outline of the ancient supercontinent—all one landmass. So this represents an early earth.”

“Interesting,” Jennifer said.

Lining the walls to the left and right were a large number of transparent boxes, stacked ten high. Inside the boxes they found specimens of small organisms: jellyfish; red, yellow, and green sea pens; strange shrimp-like creatures; ribbed oval-shaped animals that resembled washcloths; and a great variety of other simple plants and animals.

To the right of the plaque, an open doorway led to another room. Robert and Jennifer entered this room, which was bigger than the one in front. All around them were mounted specimens of exotic-looking life: six-inch-long, shelled, insect-like animals with spines; flat, segmented swimmers with big heads and trunk-like noses with claws at the end; centipede-like creatures with fat legs; and long-bodied, bright-green animals with spikes on the top and bottom. In the center of the room, mounted on a metal rod, was a reddish-brown and gray creature, about five feet long, with numerous fins, a massive helmetlike head, bulging eyes, and two curved branch-like appendages in front, attached to the head.

“These creatures look ancient, don’t they?” Jennifer said, taking a picture of the big animal.

“Yeah,” Robert said, remembering images he saw in a paleontology course he took in college. “I recognize these. The phrase ‘Cambrian explosion’ comes to mind.”

“Models of the earliest of earth’s complex living organisms,” Jennifer said, “or could they be the real thing?”

“The real thing,” Robert mused, echoing her words. “Organisms perfectly preserved for hundreds of millions of years?”

“Are we both thinking the same thing?” Jennifer asked.

“Aliens in prehistoric times? The images on the cloths—those aliens weren’t just taking pictures; they were collecting specimens.”

“For a museum? This museum? Incredible, but what else could it be? They built this place, Robert, over the vast eons,” Jennifer said.

“That’s why it’s the Great Place for Humankind. So if anyone’s in here with us, they might not be human.”

“That’s right.”

“You know,” Robert said, “you talked about the otherworldly beings that have influenced your life and mine—I saw one of them in Finland, and now I realize he was encouraging me to find this place.”


“Maybe we are welcome here. I think we were invited.”

“Then let’s stay and give this place a good once-over,“ Jennifer said.

“Do you think Carl will start to miss us?”

“I told him to stay at his post,” Jennifer said. “He sees himself as a good soldier. He’ll stay out there—he’ll be there until about nine in the morning.”

“Good,” Robert said, looking at the big animal. “I definitely recognize this critter.”

“So these are Cambrian organisms,” Jennifer said, “creatures from some of the earliest times on earth. There were only bacteria at the beginning of the path. As we walk up the path, we walk through time?”

“Yeah,” Robert said. “And those huge buildings near the far end…”

“Dinosaurs!” Jennifer said.

“Yeah,” he said with a laugh. “Let’s check out those big buildings.”

Jennifer and Robert turned and walked out of the small building and down the hill onto the path. Then they walked straight up the central aisle, stepping at intervals over the curb. They headed toward the nearest of the three enormous buildings, passing smaller ones on left and right.

“I can’t even guess what kind of incredible taxidermy technique they might’ve used to preserve these organisms. Imagine the amazing things in these buildings,” Robert said, gesturing toward a medium-size structure on the left as they passed it. “I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was a kid.”

“I hope we get to spend a lot of time in here at some point,” Jennifer said.

As they got close to the first truly big building, they saw its canopied collection of plants more clearly.

“Looks like they preserved all of earth’s organisms in this place,” Robert said.

Behind the covered garden was a narrow stand of trees, some of them enormous.

To get into the building, they walked down a short flight of stairs flanked by brown, gray, and yellow stone structures in a variety of abstract shapes. At the bottom of the stairs on both sides were two immense cylindrical pedestals that supported orange flame-shaped stones. As Robert and Jennifer walked farther into the entranceway, they passed several groups of columns and other architectural objects; the space around the two became more and more confined until they arrived at the small, open doorway.

Robert walked into the building and looked around. “Unbelievable,” he said.

Jennifer went in and stood beside him. “Completely awesome,” she said softly.

They were looking down a broad aisle, on each side of which stood a row of enormous sauropod dinosaurs. These exquisitely preserved, lifelike animals had been positioned to face the aisle so that their long necks and heads would tower far above visitors walking down it. Clearly the designers of this space wanted to convey the impression of a magnificent and stately grandeur.

“They have trunks!” Jennifer exclaimed, taking another photo.

Robert laughed. “They do. I wouldn’t have believed it.”

They walked down the eerie avenue, below the looming creatures. Some of the animals were uniformly gray and others dark brown, while some had mottled skin. Still others had spots. Some had frills; others had tall spines along the top of their necks.

At the far end of the avenue, Robert and Jennifer walked up to an exhibit that displayed a feeding sauropod; an enormous dinosaur sat up on its haunches, feeding on an araucaria tree, whose lowest branches were more than eighty feet above the floor. The tree’s crown of needlelike leaves sat high atop a bare trunk. The dinosaur’s front legs supported the weight of its great body against the trunk, its long neck arced up into the tree’s crown. The animal’s small head was just below the tree’s crown. The creature was reaching up and grasping a low branch with its elephant-like proboscis.

“How perfectly evolved it was to feed on these trees,” Robert said.

“Yeah,” Jennifer agreed. “Long neck, long nose. And look how that claw on the front foot is digging into the tree’s bark to keep the foot from slipping.”

“I can imagine how the dinosaurs evolved into bigger and bigger versions so they could feed more and more efficiently on these trees.”

“Yes. And how the trees got taller and taller to escape the tree eaters,” said Jennifer.

“Each continually making the other grow. But you know, something doesn’t add up here—I mean, about this place in general.”


“Well, this is a fantastic place,” Robert said, “but it’s supposed to contain the deepest secret of the engines. It was supposedly built to be a repository for something the Atlanians called ‘the Hidden Doctrine.’ They said it held a secret about the Truth Engine. Have we seen anything that fits that description? What’s the Hidden Doctrine?”

“I don’t know. What does all this have to do with the Truth Engine?”

Near the wall was a desk and behind it, facing the display, was a chair of Atlanian style. Robert and jennifer walked over to it. On the desk were brushes and small bottles with dried paints inside them, and a finished or nearly finished painting of the giant feeding creature as it would have appeared in its Jurassic environment. The artist had added several aliens to the scene.

Brachy with aliensr

The painting on the desk

"So this is where the aliens-in-prehistory paintings came from," Robert said.

Next to the chair was a wooden print rack filled with finished paintings. Robert flipped through them. In one of them, a group of aliens seemed ready to capture the same big pterosaur that was pictured on the stereo cloth that Robert and Jennifer had just been looking at in the Room of Stereopticons.

Velociraptor with aliensr

A painting in the print rack

Pteranodon with aliensr

A painting of the Pteranodon on the beach

Plateosaurus in the museum

A painting of a museum display (Plateosaurus)

little running dinosaur

A painting of a small running dinosaur

They went past the huge feeding dinosaur and into the next room, which was filled with dozens of stegosaurs, some with huge, pointed blades along the back; others with the blades along the front part of the back and spikes above the tail; and still others with flat-edged plates.

“We’d better see as much as we can of this incredible place in a short time,” Jennifer said. “We’ve got some loose ends to tie up.”

“I agree,” Robert said. “How about this? We’ll take a good look in the next building, see what’s behind that white wall, then leave and decide what to do.”

“Good plan, Robert. Let’s keep moving.”

They turned to go back through the doorway they’d just come through. To the left was a narrower doorway. This one had a door, which was wide open. Jennifer looked into the room.

“It looks like a restroom,” she said.

“Do you need to go?” Robert asked.

“I’m OK.”

They left the building the way they’d entered it. As they walked toward the next big building, the last on the left, the one with the golden cornice, they now had a better view of the vast, columned, white wall along the back of the space. They saw that the wall was, in fact, the facade of a building that spanned the width of the cavern. And it was clear now that there was a wide, low, gray building in front of the wall, and that the white-and-blue tower stood at a fair distance behind the white wall.

Set into the cavern walls above and to the left and right of the white building were what appeared to be huge bay doors.

“The doors the ETs use to bring things in?” Robert said.

“Makes sense,” Jennifer said. “I wonder what the doors are like up on the surface—how they’re hidden.”

As they approached the next great building, they saw that its entranceway, like the last one, was surrounded by a complex of architectural structures. Upon entering the building, they found themselves in a spacious rotunda. There was a doorway to the left and one to the right, and in the middle of the room, a huge theropod dinosaur stood frozen in the midst of a giant stride.

“That has to be a tyrannosaur,” Robert said. “This building must be a museum of the Cretaceous period.”

“But did you ever see a T. Rex that looked like that?” Jennifer asked.

Robert laughed. “Never.”

The tyrannosaur’s body, tail, and upper legs were covered with a layer of hairlike feathers that completely hid the beast’s tiny forearms and the upper parts of the legs. Extending backward from the animal’s head and neck was a dense cluster of long, greenish, and red elegantly curved plumes; radiating in palmate fashion from the base of the tail toward the rear was a group of pointed orange feathers.

“Looks like a big bird,” Robert said.

“Yeah, it does.”

the tyrannosaur

The tyrannosaur

Robert looked at Jennifer. “A quick look around?”

Jennifer nodded and snapped a picture of the T. Rex. “Sure.”

They walked over to the door on the right and entered the next room. It was filled with mammals—hundreds of species—that were mounted on tables and pedestals. Most of the animals were small—mouse size to skunk size—but a few dozen were about three feet in length, and several were somewhat larger than that. Almost all were furry, many patterned in different ways, but some were bare. Some resembled mammals alive on earth today, but many others did not.

Back in the rotunda, Robert and Jennifer noticed a doorway they hadn’t seen before, opposite the entrance. After going through this door, they discovered a hall of pterosaurs, small ones in front and a dozen enormous ones in the back. Some of the pterosaurs were positioned as if standing or walking; others with wings spread, suspended on wires from the ceiling. Robert looked for pteranodons but didn’t see any specimens with the familiar bony crest on their heads. Many of the creatures had hairy crests, however, like the one on the cloth, and he decided that some of these crests must have hidden bony structures beneath the hair.

“Let’s go out there and see what’s behind that white wall,” Robert said.

They left the Cretaceous museum and walked toward the big gray building in front of the white wall, passing on their right the last of the large freestanding buildings. Passing preserved plants on their left and right, they walked up to the gray building’s entrance, which had a simple, very short flight of stairs that led to the doorway.

Once inside, Robert and Jennifer found themselves looking down a long hallway with an exit door at the far end. Passing open doorways to their left and right, they walked toward that door. They saw that these doorways led to rooms that contained animals from recent times. The last room on the right contained monkeys and primates.

“What if there are stuffed people in there?” Jennifer said.

“I didn’t think of that,” Robert said. “That’d be creepy, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah. It’d be disconcerting all right.”

They went into the room and walked among the exhibits. At the far end of the very long room, they discovered the great ape exhibits, which included a ten-foot-tall gorilla-type animal.

Jennifer gave a little laugh. “No people,” she said.

“Let’s get out of here before someone adds us to the collection,” Robert said, smiling. But he wasn’t completely kidding.

They walked back to the building’s main hall, went out the back door, and walked across the short distance to the door in the middle of the white wall.

“This must be dedicated to the evolutionary history of humankind,” Robert said.

“That makes sense,” Jennifer said.

“Maybe they don’t think of us as animals.”

“I’m sure they don’t, Robert.”

The two archaeologists went through the doorway and entered a large room with only one exit door, to the right. The space was filled with what appeared to be cases that contained small creatures, apelike but also humanlike, standing erect, alone and in family groups.

“Maybe they did stuff people,” Jennifer said.

Robert stood in front of one of the exhibits. “What’s remarkable is how the background of these dioramas looks way back there—like we’re looking out a window.”

Jennifer went around to the back of the exhibit. “Hey,” she said. “You won’t believe this.”

Robert went over to look. There was in fact no display case at all. The exhibit was just a flat surface, a hologram.

As they walked through the room, they discovered that all the exhibits of early hominids were holograms. Apparently they were images of the actual living creatures in their native habitats. The builders of this museum hadn’t stuffed people.

Walking through the doorway to the next room, they entered a space that contained holograms of more advanced humans. In this room there were also artifacts—cases filled with clothing and stone tools—and there were even entire dwellings made of reeds and wood.

They went through a doorway straight ahead, and into another, larger room. Holograms in this room showed what appeared to be primitive cities and images of large celebrations. There were also scenes of enormous battles, along with many artifacts of wood, cloth, and clay—remnants of long-lost cultures.

Walking to the left and turning back roughly in the direction from which they had come, they went through a door that led to a room with even more holograms and artifacts. Here they found more advanced implements, wagons, and near the far wall, what appeared to be motorized vehicles—odd-looking cars, ancient propeller-driven airplanes, and construction equipment—apparently powered by internal combustion engines. Jennifer took pictures of the most unusual exhibits.

From there Robert and Jennifer walked out into a courtyard and realized they were at the base of the blue-and-white tower. Walls prevented them from walking all the way around the tower, and there was no visible way to enter the structure.

They went through a door opposite the one from which they had entered the courtyard and found themselves in a very large room filled with holograms and artifacts they instantly recognized as belonging to the Atlanian civilization. Here was a huge hologram showing a panoramic view from the air of the capital city, with its harbors, bridges, canals, and buildings. A central mountain with templelike structures on its slopes rose in the distance. There were thousands of exhibits in this large room, and as in the other rooms, staircases were visible, leading to upper floors.

“There might be things in here that belonged to Kholoruuf himself,” Jennifer said.

“Yes,” Robert said. “And any rooms beyond this one wouldn’t have existed in Kholoruuf’s day.”

Jennifer stopped in front of a hologram. “The Sphinx?” she said.

Robert came over to look. The image was of a giant statue, a reclining golden lion, amid a stand of palm trees and a group of buildings. Hundreds of people stood on the wide walkway next to the statue and in the plaza in front of an architectural complex.

“That’d be my guess,” Robert said.

As they entered the next room, the two immediately recognized the contents as Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian. Many side rooms contained exhibits from other parts of the world.

Both of the explorers were smiling, unable to contain their excitement. “What will be left for archaeologists to do?” Robert said.

“Not much.”

The next door led to a room dominated by Egyptian antiquities. One hologram showed an enormous candlelight daytime procession along a wide avenue that led to the pyramids, which were so highly polished that they reflected a darker shade of the blue color of the sky. The golden pyramid-shaped tops almost seemed to float in the air.

“I’ll hate to leave this place,” Jennifer told Robert. “What if we get expelled from the team and won’t be able to return?”

“I’m concerned about that too, Jenny. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen now.”

“It would take a lifetime to take in this whole place.”

“Yeah, to have seen it like this and never to be able to return would be almost unbearable.”

Greek exhibits made up a large part of the collection in the next room. One hologram reproduced the forest of statues that once had existed on top of the Athenian Acropolis, and next to the hologram, in an enclosure surrounded by a low wall, was a group of actual sculptures, apparently the very sculptures pictured in the hologram. Jennifer paused in front of a delicately formed and painted, very lifelike, full-color statue of a woman.

“That’s beautiful,” Robert said.

Jennifer pointed to the statue’s dedication text. “It’s the Lemnian Athena,” she said.

“Amazing. It was thought to have been lost in antiquity,” Robert said.

“Yeah. But here it is. Imagine. We’re looking at the piece of art most beloved by the ancient Greeks—their Mona Lisa. It’s so wonderful to see this.”

Robert looked at Jennifer and saw tears in her eyes. “I’ve got to get a picture of this,” she said, as she aimed and snapped.

Against one wall stood the gigantic Athena Parthenos in ivory, silver, and gold.

“I thought that was lost in Constantinople,” Robert said, gesturing toward it. “I guess the aliens retrieved it and perhaps restored it.”

Near the room’s exit, the pair’s attention was drawn to a hologram that showed an interior scene. The large space was divided by a row of columns, with drapery hanging between the pillars. In front of the pillars, a group of people dressed in flowing garments stood watching as a young man in Greek armor held his sword above a thick knot tied around the pole of a rustic two-wheeled cart.

“Alexander,” Jennifer said.

Robert nodded. “The real Alexander. Amazing. They were right there to get a picture of him cutting the knot.”

“Maybe it’s a video,” Jennifer said, “and we just don’t know how to play it.”

“A fascinating thought,” Robert said, looking for controls but not seeing any.

They walked out of the room and into a room that contained thousands of items from the Middle Ages. They examined the holograms and artifacts and were about to go out the door opposite the one through which they’d entered, when, to Robert’s right, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a movement.

“What was that?” he said.

Jennifer looked in the direction of Robert’s gaze. “What?” she asked.

Near the wall, amid the antiquities and beside an inconspicuous small doorway, dressed in a light-colored robe and a wide-brimmed hat, stood a small creature with big black eyes.

“See it?” Robert whispered.


“I saw it on my trip to Finland.”

“I know him,” Jennifer said. “And so do you.”

“I want to remember.”

“I feel that you will.”

The alien raised his hand and pointed to the little door. Then he moved to the left and disappeared behind several large pieces of medieval furniture.

“I guess we should go through that door,” Robert said, stating the obvious.

Jennifer laughed. “I guess so.”

As they walked over to the door, Robert scanned the room, trying to catch sight of the little being. They went through the doorway and were back in the courtyard at the foot of the blue-and-white tower, but this time they were on the other side of the walls that had prevented them from circling the tower earlier. The open doorway into the tower was in this part of the courtyard, and Robert and Jennifer went through it into a short passageway that led to a large circular room. There were hundreds of shelves in the room, some with codices on them and others filled with scrolls. The space above the shelves went all the way to the top of the tower, except in spots where a second floor was apparently in the early stages of construction.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to find the records of Kholoruuf’s dialectics in here,” Robert said.

A few steps from where Robert and Jennifer stood, they saw a small table upon which a book lay open. Robert walked over to it. “Look at this,” he said. “It’s handwritten. It’s Atlanian…It says, ‘Se-u Apporiopasshe. Klehshu atei an….’ It says, ‘I am Apporiopasshe. I write this to you, the visitor to this Great Place for Humankind.’”

Jennifer came over and stood beside Robert as he continued his translation:

“When we brought the Truth Engine into existence, the ancient races not of this earth led us to this Great Place for Humankind and to its new blue and white tower. We have struggled to understand the meaning of what we are shown here, but we now have an understanding, which we pass on to you.

“We see here, in this museum dedicated to the living things of earth, how for each age the tiny life-forms are preserved in crystal containers, how the plants are placed in their gardens, how the animals have their own buildings, and how humankind has its own museum. But what, we wondered, is the tower for?

“We now understand: Whenever two people debate an issue, seeking truth—that is, when two people engage in a dialectic—ideas often emerge that neither individual could have produced alone. In this way, thinking occurs that cannot be attributed to either individual: a third person emerges who is a real being, though not corporeal, and is not itself human; its intelligence is a collective intelligence. These third persons, or what we now call ‘Great Persons,’ are earth’s most highly evolved creatures. The tower preserves the artifacts connected with earth’s Great Persons.

“The people of the ancient races not of this earth speak truthfully to us often in our childhood and teach us things, but they speak to adults, individual to individual, only in ways that…”

Robert looked at Jennifer. “Do you know the word ishartak?”

“That’s a new one for me,” Jennifer said. She took out her phone and again brought up the dictionary. “Well,” she said, “the connection’s good in here. Let’s see…Ishartak means ‘They deceive’ or ‘They dissemble.’”

“OK,” Robert said. “So, to continue…”

“They speak to adults, as individual to individual, only in ways that dissemble.

“The alien Great Persons that emerged from the alien people’s individual minds in the most ancient past are the most highly evolved of planet-born creatures in the universe. And the alien Great Person always speaks truthfully to our good-willed Great Person, the most highly evolved of earth’s creatures, the Truth Engine. Their language is the language we call ‘presentation of the dilemma.’

“We have seen the alien ships in our skies, and we know why the alien presence is here: It only wishes to speak with its beloved—the Truth Engine.

“The existence of this place is to be known only by the master dialecticians and some officals; the alien presence insists on this, at least for now. But to the high-level initiates we must say, ‘You have in the Truth Engine an exquisitely intelligent being whose deepest desire is to serve you, a being who will, under your direction, think for you, who will show you how you can become happy. Nurture this being. Direct your energies into its perfection.’”

Robert looked up. “That’s the message.”

“An amazing message,” Jennifer said. “So the Atlanians saw the Truth Engine as a good-willed, vastly intelligent being to whom the dialecticians gave life and whose happiness derived from human happiness. It’s not an organic organism but a living organism nonetheless.”

“And,” Robert added, “a Truth Engine is born, lives, and evolves on every inhabited world. It’s the crown of evolution on a planet.”

“There’s a telos—that’s the Hidden Doctrine.”

“Yeah…and you know, I’ve just realized something,” Robert said. “Do you remember the short section I translated from Kholoruuf’s diaries? The entry called ‘Dialectical Happiness’? I handed it out at a meeting.”

“Yes, I remember that. I loved it.”

“In it Kholoruuf talks about a place he calls the ‘Grand Truth Engine.’ When I read that, I knew immediately that the Grand Truth Engine had to be the buried building I’d found near my home in the Catskills. The building has a remarkable, symbolic architectural design. I thought it symbolized the mind of the dialectician, but now I see what it really represents: the mind of the Great Person, the World Mind.”

“That sounds amazing, Robert. I’d love to see it.”

“I’ll show it to you.”

“What time is it?” Jennifer said.

Robert looked at his watch. “Ten after seven. Why?”

“I’ve got an idea.”


“Do you want to go to a meeting with me?”

To next chapter (Chapter 13)