Sleeping Giants Page 17

I wish I could try the other station. I know, baby ducks. There’s only one of me and I can’t be at both stations at the same time. Still, it’d be nice to know if it works…

FILE NO. 047

INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT COUTURE, GRADUATE STUDENT

Location: Underground Complex, Denver, CO

—Dr. Franklin said you had a breakthrough.

—I did. It’s not language!

—Already you lost me.

—I couldn’t figure out the meaning of the symbols. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn’t supposed to.

—Now you have really lost me. Please say something, anything, that will make sense to me.

—The people that looked at this before me, they couldn’t come up with an interpretation because they lacked a…a frame of reference. They didn’t know the grammar of that language. They didn’t know the vocabulary. They didn’t even know what this was about. They needed something to compare it to. Do you know what the Rosetta Stone is?

—I do.

—Well, so you know it’s a piece of rock, like the name says, with three sections of text carved into it, one on top of the other. The top one is written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, which no one understood when the stone was discovered. The middle carvings are Demotic, another Egyptian script, and the bottom one is Ancient Greek. That one we knew. What’s so great about the Rosetta Stone is that all three texts are about the same thing. Do you know what it’s about?

—That, I do not know.

—It’s a décret. A decree?

—Yes.

—Basically, it establishes the new king as a god. Because Ancient Greek was a known language at the time, it was used as a starting point and they were able to recognize key elements in the hieroglyphs by looking at repetitions. They were able to figure out how Egyptian hieroglyphs worked because they had the Greek version of the text as a reference.

—But whoever wrote on the panels did not leave us a Rosetta Stone.

—Maybe they did. Logically, without a frame of reference, we shouldn’t be able to do anything with this. They would know that. But if Dr. Franklin is right, this was left for us on purpose. So I started thinking, what if this is the Rosetta Stone? What if this isn’t a message written in a different language but a key to interpreting something else? It would have to be about something we already have in common, something universal. Then it hit me. It’s not words, it’s math!

We may not be as advanced, or evolved, as the people who wrote this. We might not be able to understand things that would seem trivial to them. But the one thing that we absolutely, positively, must have in common is some form of math. We both need to count things. I think they kept this thing simple enough so we could understand it, but they made sure we could get as many important concepts as we could out of it.

There are seven curvy symbols on the panels, and each has a dot in the middle. All of them also appear on the console. If you count the number of curvy lines in each one, you get the numbers one through seven. It’s so obvious once you think about it, it just makes me mad not to have seen it before.

—So the markings on the walls are a series of numbers?

—More like a series of equations. There are several of them, enough for us to interpret the other symbols, the ones that are made of straight lines.

Look at this one, for example. Here we have the number 2…Oh! I skipped over the part where you have to read from right to left. I’m sorry…So, from the right, the number 2, some unknown symbol, 2 again, some other unknown symbol, then the number 4. Now fill in the blanks: 2 something 2, something 4.

—2 + 2 = 4?

—Exactly. So now you know the symbol for addition and the one for equality. That last one could mean something a little different, like the result of an operation. I don’t know precisely but we’re in the ballpark.

—Wait. It could also be 2 x 2 = 4. How can you be certain it is not multiplication?

—That’s why there are so many sequences. We can use other formulas with the same symbols to verify our hypotheses. Here we have the same symbols used with other numbers. If this were a multiplication, it would read like 3 x 2 = 5, but it works if it’s an addition.

—What of that little line on the left? You ignored it. Is it not a symbol like the others?

—It’s definitely a symbol. I was getting to that. That vertical line appears at the end of every formula, except for two that end in a small square. The vertical line seems fairly pointless until you look at the two formulas with the square. If my interpretation is correct—and I’m pretty sure it is—these two would read 2 + 1 = 1, and 4 x 3 = 10.

—But that is wrong…

—I think that’s the point. The vertical line tells us that the equation that precedes is true, and the square tells us that it’s false. These two symbols might be the most important ones. Obviously, we now have symbols for true and false, but these are such powerful concepts, they might also be used outside of mathematics. If you look at my notes, you’ll see that both symbols also appear next to each other on the console. True and false don’t seem that useful for piloting a ship, but they probably use the same symbols for something similar, like yes and no, go and stop…Ryan thinks it’s likely akin to proceed, cancel…something like that.

—Mr. Mitchell? I did not know you discussed this with anyone but Dr. Franklin.

—Well, we basically live in a bunker, the four of us. I have my own little area where they installed the panels but—how do I put this?—I get bored…So I nose around a little. We went out for a drink a few times. Actually, they went out for a drink a few times and they felt bad about leaving me here so they asked me to tag along. Rose and I have gotten to know each other a lot more, since I report to her, but I like hanging out with Ryan and Kara. Ryan’s a nice guy. He’s a little too Captain America at times, but he grows on you.

I like Kara. She doesn’t open up much, with us, anyway. I don’t think she has someone to talk to on the outside either. I don’t know how she does it. She seems to be coping well, though. It could just be a facade, but if it is, she’s good at it. Either way, we seem to get along OK. We have the same kind of humor. Dark…we say pince-sans-rire.

—Deadpan.

—Yes. Probably a little too deadpan. Ryan thinks we’re just mean.

—So…please correct me if I am mistaken. You are saying the panels are a key to understanding whoever built this, through mathematics. You have discovered symbols for addition, multiplication, equality, truth and falsehood, as well as the numbers one through seven.

—We have a lot more than that actually. The formulas also include symbols for subtraction and division. Most importantly, we can interpret any number, if I got this right. As one would expect, some of the formulas have results that are higher than 7. Their mathematical system seems to be base-8. They only have seven symbols for numbers, plus the dot. Do you know how a base-8 system works?

—Enlighten me?

—It’s very easy to understand, just very hard to use—for us, that is. We have a base-10 system—ten symbols for numbers, if you count the zero. Basically, when we count, we go up to nine—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9—and then we run out of symbols. So we add a digit, and we get 10, which means one set of 10, plus nothing. Then we go through our nine symbols again: 11, 12, 13, etc. And we run out at 19, so we add one to the second position and we get 20, which is two sets of ten, and so on.

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