To next chapter (Chapter 6)




Robert drove up the coast to Melkbosstrand, stopping off at a big box store in Milnerton to buy a lunch bag cooler and an ice pack that he’d use the next day. It was almost eleven, so he bought a sandwich to eat on the way to the site.

As Robert drove into the field, he noticed a white camper parked near the hill with the other vehicles. Three workers were on top of the hill; Robert guessed they were installing vents. He parked, got out, grabbed his folding table, and walked up to the group beyond the fence. Orten had been speaking to the team members, and the meeting was just breaking up. Robert heard him say, “Our day ends at eight. Let’s get to work.”

Orten glanced at Robert but didn’t greet him. Robert, carrying his table, followed the others into the hill and got his first good look at the exterior of the house; the team had cleared soil off of the top of the koppie, allowing the sun to shine, in a diffused way, through the plastic shell into the enclosure. He went up to Kholoruuf’s study, where John and Will were setting up a table and two chairs in the center of the room. Robert set up his table near the large book cabinet, went back out, got a folding chair and his laptop out of the 4Runner, and carried them up to the study. He placed the laptop on the table and set up the chair while John and Will took pictures of the cabinet and its books in their original positions.

While John and Will documented the other artifacts in the room, Robert inspected the books. He selected one at random, gently took it out of the cabinet, and placed it on the table. He sat down and opened the book to its first page. This book was in better condition than those he’d examined in New York. He closed the book and carefully returned it to the cabinet.

The next step was to translate the titles of the books in the cabinet. He could do this without disturbing the books because the titles were printed on their spines. In New York he had worked hard to compile his Atl-English lexicon with its several thousand words—enough of a vocabulary, he felt, to be able to get an idea of the kinds of books Kholoruuf kept in his study.

Before the end of the day, sometimes using informed guesses, he managed to translate most of the titles. He found that the cabinet held books on logic, mathematics, history, philosophy, and the sciences. The books had titles such as Physics Handbook, Beginning Physics, A Student’s History of the Earth, Geography of the Central Islands, and An Introductory History of the People of the Woods. Other titles included Truth-Engine Logic, Logic Basics, Mathematics for Dialecticians, and Introduction to the Early History of Atlan. As he translated the titles, it became clearer to him that, for the most part, the volumes were basic treatises on their subject matter. Here was a collection of books quite capable of delivering a paideian education—an education designed to produce an enlightened citizen, a citizen with a broad grasp of cultural knowledge. But he did notice there were gaps in the range of subject matter; for instance, aside from a couple history books, there was nothing here about social or political matters, and, except for a book that taught musical performance skills, he found nothing pertaining to the arts.

Working into the evening, Robert compiled a catalog of the books by title, size, position, and cover color. He gave numbers to the titles he was unable to translate.

Around eight o’clock several crew members walked into the study from the bedroom and went into the hall. John looked at his watch. “Time to go,” he said, and he and Will started to wrap up their work.

Robert picked up his notebook and laptop and left the study. As he entered the hallway, he saw that someone had found a way to open the door with the sculpture above it. He went up to the door, peered in, and saw Orten and several crew members inside. The most prominent pieces of furniture in the room were three large cube-shaped cabinets with legs. There was a chair in front of each. Robert walked in and examined one of the cabinets. It was a well-made, decorative piece of wooden furniture, probably quite attractive when new. An open pair of cabinet doors flanked a pair of large lenses installed about halfway up the front of the cabinet.

“A stereopticon?” one of the men asked, not speaking to anyone in particular. He placed his face up to the lenses and looked through them. “Nothing,” he said.

On the way out of the koppie, Robert ran into Professor Orten.

“A productive day?” Orten asked.

“I felt good about it.”

“We’ll meet tomorrow morning at eight, in the white camper,” said Orten.

Later that evening, at the guesthouse in Fresnaye, Robert formulated a plan.

Beginning with the most interesting translated titles, and those that might best promote understanding of Atlantean culture, he decided to take photographs of the first several pages and one internal page of about twenty books.

He took out his Canon SLR digital camera. With the depth of field afforded by an aperture of eight, he could focus in on the book’s gutter and page simultaneously. For any pages that weren’t numbered, he’d have to include in the shot a little piece of paper showing the actual page number. He decided to place a color card, to ensure accurate color, and a ruler into each photo. He would mount the camera on a tripod and use the camera’s self-timer and flash to take the pictures. After taking the photographs, he would come home and translate the texts using the photos. Then he would write a report on each book, and prepare a presentation on each, for Orten and the team. When that was finished, he’d photograph twenty more, and put together reports and presentations, until all the books were documented. On days when he was at home translating, he would skip the meetings.

The next morning, as Robert drove into the field, he noticed two additional campers parked near the hill. Feeling the usual sense of danger that he felt around these people, Robert went into the white camper and joined the meeting. Several team members were already there. Some were seated, while others stood. An older, white-haired man with a white mustache, whom Robert hadn’t seen before, sat near Orten and Jennifer. Robert expected Orten to introduce him to the man, but Orten just shuffled his papers. Robert looked at the man then at Jennifer and saw she was looking back at him. It was an odd moment, and Robert didn’t know what to make of it; perhaps he didn’t want her to think he was curious about the man’s identity. Robert had begun to see Jennifer as the team member to be most wary of.

After several more team members arrived, Orten started the meeting, giving the floor to Robert. Robert told the group he’d translated the titles of the books in the cabinet, then he handed out copies of his list. He ran his translation plan past Orten and received the OK to proceed with it.

Other team members reported what they’d accomplished the day before. John and Will had been in the study with Robert and had taken a lot of photos and diagrammed the room and now would study the artifacts more closely.

Jonathan said he’d managed to pick the lock on the door with the sculpture above it, the door to the room he now called the “Room of Stereopticons,” and gone in.

Eddy described his documentation of the bedroom and the Astrology Room.

The five other team members had been with Orten, investigating the flying machine. Scott, who seemed to be the team’s mechanics and electronics expert, reported he’d investigated the craft’s engine and found that it, like the car’s engine in Finland, was missing its power source. The engines in both vehicles, Orten said, looked very similar.

The white-haired man broke in several times during Scott’s presentation to ask questions. In his responses, Scott addressed the man as “General.”

It was the general who ended the discussion about the flying machine, and he did it in a way that gave Robert the impression that the general, not Orten, was in charge of this meeting. “We’ll not talk further about this airship today,“ the general said quietly.

“OK,” Orten said. “Meeting’s over. Jonathan, document everything in the Room of Stereopticons. Everyone else keep doing what you were doing yesterday.“

Orten turned to Robert. “You do whatever you want to do,” he said.

On his way out of the camper, Robert thought about how being ordered to be autonomous isn’t real autonomy.

Robert spent the day carefully photographing the first several pages—and a random internal page—of each of twenty books. Since one of the books he documented was a text on music, he also photographed the sheet music that was on the piano-like instrument.

When he got home to the guesthouse shortly before 9:00 p.m., he turned off his security alarm, unlocked the door, and went in. Someone had been smoking a cigarette. Robert was sure he smelled it the instant he walked in, but it was now less distinct. He stood at the door, leaving it ajar. He knew he’d locked the door on his way out in the morning, and the alarm had been on, but someone had been in there. Was that person still there?

He carefully checked every room but found no one. As far as he could see, nothing had been taken or disturbed. The mysterious note had warned him his home would not be secure. It made sense that people at the Grayling Conservancy, if they were as corrupt as the note writer implied, would try to get a look at his personal records. He slowly opened the drawer that contained his stack of notes. Sure enough, there were no breadcrumbs on the top sheet.

So now they have a better idea of the site I found, he thought, but they don’t know where it is—maybe now they think it’s in Turkey. He smiled. And they have no idea I discovered a car with a power source in it.

There was nothing to do about the break-in, so Robert started his computer and loaded his photos into it.

After dinner he got busy translating the pages.


The first photos he opened on his laptop were of the first pages of a book titled Elementary Geometry.

three points

caption for maxminscolor

four points

Another figure from the geometry book

five points

caption for 5points9dist127

There was nothing about angles between lines on these pages. Instead the focus was on maximum and minimum distances. Fixed distances among a number of given points can place limits on how short and how long other distances among them can be.

The author referred several times in the text to the combination of groups of points and the relations existing among them as bunches, the same word used in the Universal Dictionary of Atl for bunches of bananas, grapes, or flowers.


The next pages Robert translated were from a book titled Mathematics for Dialecticians. He was no expert in mathematics, but he felt he had a good handle on the Atl language, so he should be able to translate the introductory part of the text, the part on arithmetic.

As he translated the examples in this text, Robert discovered that Atlanian arithmetic had something in common with modern arithmetic. There were many different kinds of expressions, each composed of three numbers connected by special signs. For instance he decided that the Atlanian “2 – 3 – 5” must mean something like modern “2 + 3 = 5.” But he was confused by their system. If “2 – 3 – 5” meant “2 + 3 = 5,” then what did the Atlanian “2 – 3 – • ’ 5” mean?

The author of the Atlanian text called expressions such as “2 – 3 – 5” sum bunches. Here was the word bunch again. But expressions such as “2 – 3 – • ’ 5” were never referred to in the ancient text with the word bunch.

He reasoned that Atlanian “2 – 3 – • ’ 5” had to be a statement meaning “2 + 3 = 5”. But “2 – 3 – 5” was a term that named an “addition bunch,” a group of numbers along with the relations among them, composed of 2 being added to 3 to equal 5. He knew of no modern term for such a group.

He now saw clearly that the Atlanian expression “• – 3 – 5” was also a term. It meant “the first of 3 numbers that are in the addition bunch composed of ‘some number, 3, and 5.’” In other words “• – 3 – 5” meant “5 minus 3.”

Similarly “2 – 3 – •” meant “2 plus 3.” So the “ ’ ” sign meant “equals.”

As he worked on his translation, he was impressed by the neat consistency of the Atlanian system compared to our modern system. For instance in Atlanian our “12/6” was “• = 6 = 12,” and our “2 x 6” was expressed as “2 = 3 = •.”


Robert had taken a course in symbolic logic in college but decided he’d better brush up on it before translating the pages of the Atlanian book called Truth-Engine Logic. The next morning, he went to a bookshop at the V&A Waterfront and bought a book on logic.

After returning home and spending several hours giving himself a quick refresher course, Robert started his translation of the introduction to Truth-Engine Logic:

Throughout Atlan these rooms differ. The room of instruction at the Truth Engine in the capital city is ten strides long by ten strides wide. A very thick pillar stands at each corner. As the initiate enters this room, he or she faces a round desk and a chair near the far wall. At the far right, in the corner, is a large wooden panel-cabinet [ mish-panahk]. In the middle of the room, between the door and the chair, the floor has been built around an old stone well that, it is said, is the well that was built by Atallas, the founder of the capital city of Atlan, who arrived as a keeper of livestock and later reigned as king. They say Atallas’s farm stood on this spot.

The well is still a source of water.

The initiate steps into the room with a dialectician [skeopashu—referring to a particularly revered logician or debater] who will be his or her guide. To the initiate’s left and right, two giant, gray metal statues of armored soldiers stand between the columns. Each soldier holds a light-flash weapon.

The guide shows the initiate to the chair. The teacher enters wearing a green robe, green sandals, and a tiny, bright-orange namat pin. Adopting a casual tone, the teacher speaks.

“Welcome to our school,” says the teacher. “Look at these four figures.” He pulls a panel from the cabinet. On the panel the following figures have been drawn.

the four signs

“I have chosen one of these four figures to serve as my example.”

Being prompted by the guide, the initiate asks, “Which one is your chosen one?”

“I will not tell you, but I will give some clues as to how knowledge of one or two facts can lead to knowledge of another. Here I will show you the Three Laws.” He slides a panel from the cabinet. On the panel is written in red letters:

3 laws

Robert studied the lesson. He thought about how the teacher hadn’t really stated the laws but had produced concrete examples through which the initiate could infer the general rules.

The teacher asks the initiate, “Do you see how these are valid conclusions, how these are valid laws?”

“Yes. Clearly.”

The teacher frowns. “But if you knew them already, why in the world would you care to make them plain to your conscience mind?”

The guide prompts the initiate not to respond.

The teacher continues, “Do you know why you receive these lessons here beside the well of Atallas and how these two soldiers are portrayed as guarding what we do here?”

“No,” says the initiate.

The teacher says, “It was claimed that at the well of Atallas water was drawn from the center of the earth, from the eternal and unchanging realm. The Three Laws are of that eternal realm, so the well of Atallas is the symbolic source of the laws. To the uninitiated, the laws seem obvious, trivial, and without value, but we know they underlie the Argument Forms, which, together with the machinery of the Truth Engine, are such a powerful force against ignorance and evil that the men of iron here to our left and right must guard them. The dialectician is a lover of humanity, and the knowledge of these three simple laws allows him to fully manifest his love.”

“That is the first of the two Foundational Lessons,” the teacher says. “Are you ready for the second?”


Robert found it interesting that this book taught logic by describing a learning ritual. But he didn’t clearly see why the Atlanians felt these laws were such powerful instruments of love.

He now had translated all the pages of Truth-Engine Logic that he’d photographed, but so far he hadn’t come across anything relating to the sort of logic he was familiar with. Robert was curious about the second of the two Foundational Lessons, so, although it was past eight in the evening, he drove up to the koppie to photograph the next couple of sections of the book.

When he arrived at the site, the parking area was almost empty. Only the RVs and one car, which Robert assumed belonged to the guard, were there. He spent two hours photographing more pages of the logic book then went back to Fresnaye. The next day he translated the newly acquired text.

In this new section, the author presented what he called the “four statement models,” which he described in the following manner:

The teacher gestures toward the four massive columns. “These columns,” he says, “represent the Four Models. These models are the four statement models that serve as the Four Pillars supporting the Truth Engine. Each model is written near the top of the column that represents it. See up there?”

The guide tells the initiate to say, “I cannot see them. They are far above me.”

The teacher points to the four columns and says, “These Four Pillars of the Truth Engine, these Four Models that allow us to manifest our love as we speak to one another, look like this…” Leaving the laws panel displayed, he pulls another panel out of the cabinet. On this panel is written, in bright gold letters:

the four pillars

“These are the four wonderful pillars of peace and happiness that all dialecticians must know and revere,” says the teacher. “Knowledge of these Four Models guides the logicians of the engine in their heroic battle for truth.” He pushes the panel back into the cabinet and withdraws another one. On this one is written in black letters:

What the pillars stand for

“At this point,” the author wrote, “the teacher shows the initiate, step-by-step, how an argument should be constructed."

Robert read through the teacher’s lesson on symbolic logic. It was clearer than the modern system. He learned the meaning of the connecting lines in the Four Pillars. The lessons directed the initiate how to translate ordinary language into the language of Truth-Engine logic:

Translation of logical symbols

Use of this terminology made it easy to apply the Three Laws in logical deduction. For instance:

The In-Common Law (IC) as applied to logic allows you to construct a conclusion by creating a third expression that has all and only the connector line(s) that the two premises have in common. For instance:

Illustration of the In=Common Law

Translation of logical symbols

Truth-Engine Logic: Robert’s photo of the page where the teacher’s step-by-step lesson begins. (Robert included a color separation guide in the photo.) For Robert’s translation of these pages, tap here.

But there were parallels to our system. For instance, Robert recognized Ash-Katl as being the same as the modern argument form called Modus Ponens: If p then q, p, therefore q.

According to the text, the full deduction for Ash-Katl was:

Modus Ponens

which was shortened to:


Robert looked at the Ash-Katl form. Where have I seen this before? He wondered. I know I’ve seen something like this before. He went to the closet, reached behind his shirts, and pulled out the towel in which he’d wrapped the key case. Unwrapping the envelope and opening it, he took the key case out and sat down on the bed to examine it.

Three lines of repeated text, he thought. And each line is divided in the middle. He looked carefully at what he’d thought was a decorative band separating the words on the left from those on the right and laughed out loud. He plainly saw what he’d never noticed before. He saw the vestiges of paint on parts of the design. By taking only the painted parts as included in the text, he could now finally discern the complete meaning. It read:


which Robert now knew meant, “If heroes speak, then we flourish. Heroes speak. [Therefore] we flourish.”

The heroes could only have been the logicians, Robert thought. Somehow their speaking, and their use of logic, brought happiness to the people.

Robert sat on the bed holding the little key case in his hands. Tears came to his eyes. In a way he couldn’t quite understand, the revelation of the meaning of the inscription—the fact that the meaning finally was completely clear to him—was for him a milestone, as if a childhood dream had been fulfilled, something important accomplished. Now he would get on with things.


Reconstruction: the key case, as it looked fourteen thousand years ago

He decided not to cover much of the logical material in detail at the meeting (and of course he would say nothing about the key case), since he sensed the group would not be open to learning a logical system, even though this one was essential to the workings of the Truth Engine, a central institution for the Atlanians. But he did want to make the point to the team that the Atlanian systems he’d studied were more advanced than ours.





The Atlanian method impressed Robert. Compared to our modern system, the Atlanian one had a polished, perfected look, as if it were the product of a longer—perhaps centuries longer—process of evolution. He knew that some very formal modern systems were more orderly than the popular version, but he realized that none of our systems had Truth-Engine logic's transparency

He was also struck by the way Atlanian logic used only three axioms, whereas modern logic uses many.

He thought about how logic today is considered an esoteric study, of little practical value for anyone not involved in, say, computer programming, and wondered how it was that the Atlanians saw logic as an essential weapon in the dialectician’s heroic battle for truth. How was this cold, abstract discipline transformed into a powerful instrument of love “as we speak to one another”? He wanted to understand the Truth Engine better.

Playing Music

Robert had taken piano lessons in his youth and could read a score. With this low-level expertise, he was able to translate the book titled, Playing Music.

musical keyboard

Musical Keyboard

musical keyboard

a drawing found in the art studio showing a decorative keyboard


In his memo for the group, Robert wrote:

This short book presents a system that allows almost anyone to experience the joy of playing music. The author of Playing Music describes the three components of this system. First, in Kholoruuf’s time, the Truth Engine’s “League of Dialecticians” sponsored a wide network of “ electronic-instrument ensembles.” Each of these ensembles was a duet-size to orchestra-size group of players. Each of the players played monophonically on an electronic keyboard instrument of a kind that allowed for expressive playing. Since each musician in the group played only one note at a time, it was easy for almost anyone to participate. Second, the keys on the keyboard were arranged and named in a simple, logical way that made transposition between key signatures easy. Third, the musical scores used by soloists and by the participants in these ensembles were extremely clear and extremely easy to read.

The keys on the Atlanian keyboard (left) were, simply, back keys alternating with front keys; whereas the keys on our modern keyboards (right) have an unduly complex arrangement:

front   front

back   back

front   front

back   front

front   back

back   front

front   back

back   front

front   front

back   back

front   front

back   back

The chart below lists the names of musical notes. The Atlanian notes were named [left column] in a simple, systematic way—in this memo, I will rename them [middle column]. On the other hand, in the modern system [right column], the notes are given complex names:

Note Names


The Atlanian musical score is extremely easy to read. If we substitute modern letters and numbers for Atlanian ones, the score that’s open on the piano begins like this. (It clearly represents the soprano voice of the piece):


Atlanian music was tonal and with twelve notes to the octave, as is ours. This reflects the universality of these structures.

Robert looked up musical notation on the Internet and found an article about the eleventh-century monk Guido of Arezzo, the “father of modern music.” Guido added two lines to the two-line staff in use at the time, to produce a four-line staff. This innovation made it possible to accurately notate musical pitches for the first time. Guido believed that, using his new method, a student could learn in five months what previously would have taken him or her ten years to learn. Robert wondered whether reintroducing the very clear and simple Atlanian system might accomplish the same kind of revolution in our own time.

As he translated more pages, he became keenly aware that there was something these introductory texts all had in common: They were easy to understand. The texts covered material that modern textbooks present in a way that is difficult for most students to understand, but somehow the Atlanian books made this same material extremely simple. By the twist of a phrase, by the use of just the right word, through consistency of notation, the authors produced clarity.

Over the next three weeks, Robert translated all the pages he had photographed, and in the process, he added many words to his lexicon. After finishing with each book, he wrote a memo about it for the group. The pattern he noticed was continued and reinforced: all the books had the same simplicity that was clearly designed to make learning easy.

It was time to take another set of photos—or to see what else he might do. With his usual trepidation in heading to a meeting with the Grayling bunch, Robert drove up to the site for the 8:00 a.m. meeting.

At the meeting he learned that little progress was being made in uncovering the operations of the flying machine. A computer had been located in the ship, but its workings were as mysterious as the workings of the other computers in the house.

The team had investigated a number of tools found near the craft. Some of the tools contained electronic circuits that no one understood. One component was a very large glass tube whose function could not be determined.

At one point Orten referred to “off-site analysts” who would do follow-up work on some of these artifacts. Robert wondered whether objects were being taken away from the house to be studied elsewhere.

Orten reported that the east door in the study had been opened, revealing an art studio. He assigned Jonathan the task of documenting the artifacts in this room. Orten explained his choice to the group, saying of Jonathan, “Dr. Miller has written a book on ancient music and several on ancient art.”

From the art studio, the team had entered a room that contained displays honoring prominent Atlanian citizens. When Orten proposed this room be called the “Room of Honors,” no one objected.

The team hadn’t yet been able to figure out how to operate the devices that resembled stereopticons.

Eddy told the group he was translating a stack of “dream pages” in Kholoruuf’s bedroom. These documents apparently were sheets of paper on which Kholoruuf had written down, and commented on, his dreams.

Investigation and documentation of the objects in the astrology room was still being done, and a new member of the group named Kyle was producing computer-graphics reconstructions of these objects.

Orten introduced two other new members, Janice and Sam, who would be working with the inscrutable Kholoruufian computers.

The team was seeking the least destructive way to get through the basement door. Orten suggested that everyone should keep an eye out for a key.

John and Will discovered a set of strange pieces of cloth in the study. They seemed to have some kind of circuitry attached to them, but the men couldn’t determine its function. The two also were translating, using Robert’s lexicon, the history books in the large cabinet in the study.

In the study Will also had translated small parts of some of the books in a slimmer bookcase next to the glass doors to the balcony. These books had been written by hand, and the translations showed that their author was Kholoruuf himself. They seemed to constitute his day-to-day diary or chronicle. The team had determined that Atlan had already begun to decline in Kholoruuf’s day. Since the main Atlantean islands still existed when Kholoruuf lived, the decline must have occurred sometime before any cataclysm destroyed these islands. Will had started with the last of the diaries to be written, looking for clues to the reasons for the decline. Unfortunately Kholoruuf either had stopped making entries before the onset of Atlantean troubles or had taken the journals from this period with him when he left.

John announced that a book called Guide for Dialecticians had been found in the study, inside the archaeopteryx cabinet. The book, which had been carefully wrapped in a piece of red felt and tied up with a golden cord, must have been very old, even in Kholoruuf’s day and was in very bad condition. It appeared to be a guide to the Truth Engine, but the group hadn’t yet had the opportunity to translate any large part of it.

Orten interrupted John’s presentation. “Robert,” he said, “I wonder if I could get you to do a preliminary translation of whatever parts of this Guide for Dialecticians that you find interesting, and if you could do that next. None of us here is a professional linguist, but you seem to have a handle on this language. I want to get some clarity about this Truth-Engine business. Would you agree to do that for us?”

“I’d be happy to,” Robert said. He was eager to learn more about the Truth Engine, which was so deeply venerated by Kholoruuf and his fellow citizens.

“Good. Because I think this is an important book,” Orten said. “Do the translations, write a report, and I’ll schedule a special meeting where you can make a presentation. John and Will can keep working on the bookcase. Let’s get every page of every one of those books documented. Then we can get the documentation out to the off-site translators—we’ll get them working on a complete translation of the Guide too.”

Off-site translators? Robert knew there had to be a lot of work being done behind the scenes. He knew there had to be a secret project underway somewhere, probably under the auspices of the US government, designed to deal with these monumental discoveries.

Everyone at Nell’s Koppie, as far as he could tell—except probably the new members, Kyle, Janice, and Sam—was an archaeologist. Surely there were other experts out there working on the linguistic, technological, logical, philosophical, and historical issues. But he resisted the urge to ask questions, as he didn’t want to appear unduly inquisitive. So far Orten wasn’t passing on any insights he might have received off-site to the team—at least, he wasn’t passing them on to Robert.

Orten turned to Karen. “Have they got that website up and running?”

“Yes,” Karen said. “They’ve put up a password-protected site online, a database for Atl-to-English translation. Everyone here and the translators will be able to add new words to it. I’ll get the information to all of you.”

Robert wanted to ask who “they” were, but he bit his tongue.

When it was his turn to make a presentation, he handed out copies of his translations. He explained how the books could be viewed as a semicomplete collection of “paideian” textbooks for the student who pursues a well-rounded education. He showed in detail, using the examples, how the books seemed to have been written using methods designed to promote clarity in the transfer of knowledge.

“The Kholoruufian educational systems,” Robert said, “were so transparent, so conducive to learning, that it was almost as if there had been no medium at all between the learner and the thing to be learned.”

Orten had been looking at Robert’s translations and seemed strangely annoyed by Robert’s positive take on the ancient material that the team was bringing to light. Robert hadn’t expected this reaction and didn’t completely understand it.

“I don’t know,” Orten said. “I think there’s a humanness in our own systems that I don’t see here in the Kholoruufian systems—a certain beauty in our systems’ diversity.”

Robert thought for a moment about whether to respond to Orten and decided there was no reason not to. “But I think it’s at the expense of clarity,” he said. “A slight aesthetic appeal in the system of notation, say, for music, ends up standing in the way of learning. Because of this, perhaps millions of people who could enjoy a lifetime of making music are totally deprived of that experience. But really I think the symmetry in the Atlanian systems is more beautiful than the chaos in ours.”

Robert noticed several other members of the group were smiling and seemed tense, as if shocked that anyone would disagree with Orten.

“Their system was austere—it wasn’t human,” Orten said. He turned to Jennifer. “What do you think, Dr. Keller?”

This was the first time Robert had heard her last name. He wanted to remember it. Dr. Jennifer Keller.

“I agree with you, Professor,” she said. “It’s as if their systems were designed for robots.”

Robert thought Jennifer’s point was a little over the top and sensed she was trying to ingratiate herself with Orten. But Orten bought it.

“Yeah,” Orten said. “And people who have learned our systems aren’t going to throw away what they know so they can adopt the Kholoruufian systems.”

He was now arguing against a point Robert hadn’t even made, but Robert had a response. “Apparently Kholoruuf’s culture found some way around that problem, Professor. There must have been older Atlanian systems, and the people who’d learned them must have thrown them away to embrace the new ones”

“Don’t idolize these people, Robert,” Orten said, “at the expense of your own.”

Robert figured he’d better be tactful and allow Orten the last word. What a strangely twisted way this guy has of responding to potentially useful new ideas, he thought.

He spent the rest of the day in Kholoruuf’s study translating the first few pages of the Guide for Dialecticians, then photographing those pages and a few more. On the book’s title page, the author was listed as “Apporiopashe.” Below the printed name, someone had written in Atl, “First Logician of the Truth Engine.”

As Robert worked, he thought about how the fact that Kholoruuf had kept the Guide for Dialecticians in the archaeopteryx cabinet might, along with the way he’d wrapped the book, indicate that he’d held the book in very great esteem. It seemed to Robert that the symbol of the archaeopteryx had special meaning for the Atlanians. Not only was a model of the bird displayed in Kholoruuf’s study, but there was a similar display in the Room of the Truth Examiner in the Catskills—and there was a silhouette of an archaeopteryx above the door to the cylindrical room in Kholoruuf’s house, the room the team called the Core Room. Robert suspected that Kholoruuf had considered the archaeopteryx cabinet to be a receptacle where a venerated object should be kept. In time Robert would come to treat the Guide for Dialecticians as the central Kholoruufian text.

That night at home, Robert did an Internet search on Dr. Jennifer Keller. He found she was an archaeologist currently on the faculty of a major midwestern university. She had written articles on Native American sites, including the great Mississippian mounds. She also had done work in Nevada at a time when Orten was at work there, and Robert guessed the two might have met during that time. She had grown up in Ohio, earned her PhD in California, and apparently wasn’t married.

He also did a search on Dr. Jonathan Miller and found references to his books: Music of the Ancient Greeks, The Art of Babylon, and Scythian Art.

Robert had dinner, worked some more on the translations he’d made that day, and went to bed. He lay awake longer than usual, thinking about the Guide for Dialecticians and what it might have to say about the mysterious Truth Engine. He was eager to get a fuller understanding of this tattered Guide, this book that Kholoruuf had tied up with a golden cord.

To next chapter (Chapter 6)