Saturday, January 19, 2008

"The Descent Revelation"

Start: The Descent (Page 13, Copyright 1999), by Jeff Long
End: Mass Effect: Revelation (Page 13, Copyright 2007), by Drew Karpyshyn
The story between them: by Michael Rigg

"I've been studying this mandala," she said, indicating the painted circle filled with squirming lines. In the darkness, its colors had been brilliant and alive. In their light, the drawing was bland. "I've seen hundreds of mandalas, but I can't make heads or tails out of this one. It looks like chaos, all those lines and squiggles. It does seem to have a center, though." She glanced up at the mummy, then at Ike's notes. "How about you? Getting anywhere?"

He'd drawn the oddest sketch, pinning words and text in cartoon balloons to different positions on the body and linking them with a mess of arrows and lines.

Carrie Grissom leaned in close to the lieutenant and made a face at his sketches.

Ike said, "What?"

"That doesn't look like progress to me. It looks like gibberish."

Ike huffed. "One captain's gibberish is another lieutenant's madness."

She rose and paced, peaking periodically at the red-blue shift glowing in the starship's portal. "Okay, I give. What's it mean?"

Ike stood up from console and stretched. He eyed the mummy the excavator's found on Regalla Prime. It lay gray and mottled, a stark contrast to the gleaming white interior of the UVS Invictus' laboratory.

"I don't know. I can't make sense of it. These words carved into the body," he said point with a clipboard at the elongated torso, "appear to be self-inscribed."

"Self inscribed? What the hell does that mean? Don't you mean self-inflicted?"

Ike shrugged. The captain was more and more difficult to work with when she was anxious. "Tattoos," was all he said.

Grissom approached the mummy and traced one of the words above the mandala with her finger, careful to keep her digit at least a centimeter from the delicate dehydrated flesh. It appeared to be a word, but maybe it really was gibberish. "Look. I know you're a linguist and all, and that's why you were brought on this expedition...."


A rumble vibrated through the ship and the red-blue glow sank into the gold blackness of space. They were decelerating. Grissom, used to space travel, ignored the change and said, "You said this was a name. How do you know?"

Ike sighed and dropped the clipboard on the stool. He had hoped to end this meeting with as few syllables as possible. Now the captain was dragging him into ancient history. His past. Explanations that were frankly none of her business.

He took a deep breath, glanced away when her ice gray eyes tried to meet his, "It's a long story."

She checked the chronometer glowing on her inner arm. "We have about an hour, lieutenant, spill it. If I'm going to deliver a report about this to the council, and include your gibberish, I'm going to need to know how you know what the hell that is."

"Well, I know it's a name because it's close to my middle name."

Grissom guessed sarcastically, "John?"



"Koluku. It was my great, great, great grandmother's name. She was a Conarian from the outer rim of the Starlian Crest."

Grissom held up a hand as if to dismiss eveything the lieutenant was about to say, and everything he'd done thusfar. In one gesture, she was saying, "You're fired."

She said, "Wait a minute. How is that possible? Conarian and human physiognomy -- biology -- they don't mix."

"They do," Ike insisted plainly. The mummy could rest. This no longer involved the scientific discovery of the age. It involved him.


"Actually, my grandfather was tracing our family's genealogy and he--"

"I didn't really want to know," Grissom growled, cutting him off.

They were almost at their destination. The Arcturus space station dominated the entire window now, blocking out everything else. The docking bay loomed before them, a gaping hole in the gleaming hull of the station's exterior.

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