Saturday, August 24, 2013

Miners of Earth


Well-schooled, quiet, enamored of books and learning, Mary Nova Goidel, arrives at Cambridge University in 1922. While at Girton College, Mary becomes insatiably interested in the long geological history of Earth. Just how long was finally quite clear due to the steady march of scientific inquiry. Mary hears a lecture by Arthur Holmes explaining how radioactive isotopes can be used to date rocks. Mary's conceptualization of the universe expands to the scale of billions of years.

[Editor's note. When Thomas Iwedon (see Trysta's Family) wrote Miners of Earth back in the Ekcolir Reality, he imagined it more as a play than a novel. Later, after his brain was invaded by advanced nanites from a positronic robot, a "record" of his memories of Miners of Earth was made. Later still, a swarm of infites was transferred to me that included that "recording" of Miners of Earth. This chapter of Trysta and Ekcolir is "my" reconstruction of the story. I actually had much help from the Dead Widowers.]

In the audience for the science lecture is a strange young man who catches Mary's "eye". Sensing an odd connection to the man, Mary tries to find him in the crowd after the lecture, but he seems to evaporate into thin air.

Girton College
Four years later Mary is hired as the teacher in the small school at Wenvoe. Arriving in the sleepy village at the start of a new school year with little more than the clothes on her back and the job offer letter from the local school superintendent, Mary learns that most of her students are boys, the sons of prospectors who continue to prowl and exploit the depleted and officially closed mines of the area.

Mary sinks into a mild depression, feeling isolated in the tired rural village and wondering why most of her students seem so strangely quiet and reserved.

Besides the school, there are few other going concerns in Wenvoe. The semi-retired Dr. Nader still maintains a medical clinic, but more often than not her patients are livestock on the nearby farms. Most of the time Dr. Nader can be found in the town library working on a multi-volume history of Wales.

The only remaining business in the village is the DeCosmo Trade and Supply Depot, located in the old rail depot on the abandoned rail line that used to service the once thriving mines of the district. To Mary's surprise, she learns that the proprietor of the Supply Depot, Mailn Crunn, is the strange man who she glimpsed at the Holmes lecture four years previously. With little else to do, Mary spends an hour or two each day chatting with Malin.

DeCosmo Trade and Supply Depot
Mary learns that Malin is well educated and devoted to the welfare of the Depot's patrons who are mostly the local prospectors and their "families". As the school superintendent, Malin is Mary's boss, but he is seldom seen around the school. The Depot's stock boy, Jack, helps out at the school and the library doing maintenance work and cleaning.

Over the course of several weeks, Mary can't figure out where most of her students, the prospectors or Malin live and she never sees any of their wives. Pressed hard by Mary for answers to these mysteries, Malin only admits to not being married. Mary asks, "Why are there so few women around here?"

Malin shrugs and a pained grimace appears on his face. He mutters quietly, "We seem to scare off most women."

Mary laughs. "You're such a shy man." She winks at Malin. "I get the feeling that it is you who is afraid of women."

Malin says rather gloomily, "I'm just afraid for women."

Mary laughs nervously and feels a tingle up her back. She comments, "When I moved in, I found some old letters in a drawer addressed to a Miss Wiley...was she the former school teacher?"

Malin nods. "Aye. She lasted two years. I'll have to chastise Jack for not having adequately cleaned your place before you moved in."

Mary's favorite game had become teasing Malin about how dead and dull Wenvoe was. "Fancy that, a young woman who lasted two whole years in this ghost town! And please don't punish Jack. He never has enough time to do all his work."

Malin ignores her flip commentary and sinks deep in thought. There is a long pause in the conversation, during which Mary looks through a rack of women's clothing that Malin had just brought in to the Depot...all in Mary's size. Malin finally frowns then shrugs and he mutters, "I found her at Sumerville College."

Oppressed by Malin's dark mood and terse replies, Mary doggedly makes an effort to engage Malin in further conversation. She says rather brightly, "Oh, that's the school of Vera Brittain, a writer I just discovered. My mother suggested that I attend Sumerville, but my aunt Jane's opinion won out and so for me it was Girton."

Malin seems surprised and asks rather pointedly, "Your aunt?"

"Both my aunt and my mother are very clever and opinionated. While growing up, I often felt like I had two mothers who never agreed on anything."

"Hmmm...is that your cousin Diana's mother?"

Mary is surprised. "You know Diana?"

Malin nods. "Yes. She's at Newnham."

"That's right, or she was. I'm afraid I got so busy I lost track of her progress. Last I heard she was trying to arrange some post-graduate research. But tell me, how do you know Diana? Did she also apply for the teaching job here?"

Annoyingly, Malin just gives his head a little shake and he will say no more about Diana. Mary returns the conversation back towards Wenvoe. "Was Miss Wiley not happy here?"

Malin looks at the well-worn Depot floor and scuffs his foot on the protruding corner of a warped board. "She was not a suitable choice."

"You regret having hired her?" Malin just shrugs. "Was she a good teacher?" He nods but then he will say no more.

Mary observes, "My salary here is twice that of my other job offers and I get a big furnished house at no rent and you've never let me pay you for anything I get here at the Depot. Do you imagine that you can induce a woman to live beyond the edge of civilization as long as the pay is high?" Malin remains silent. "What's your story Mr. Crunn? Should I recognize that name? Is your father some philanthropist trying to pay back a debt to a tired old mining town that his business exploited?"

Malin finally cracks a bit under the barrage of her questions. "As you can tell by my accent, I'm a local boy. I learned to learn here at Wenvoe school. I've only occasionally gone elsewhere, for special events like that Holmes lecture."

"I can't fault the way you keep up the school, particularly the library. And the village library is amazing. Still, I don't understand where all the money comes from."

"Don't worry about the money...we're in no danger of running out. Just teach the children, Miss Goidel."

"I never worry, Mr. Crunn, I'm just naturally curious." Mary takes an amazingly decorative blouse off of the rack and puts it on. For a few minutes she struggles with the buttons that are on the back of the blouse. She feels Malin's eyes on her. "You're so quiet, I believe you enjoy frustrating my curiosity." Malin turns away and busies himself placing some cans on a shelf and mutters quietly. Mary turns her head towards Malin and asks, "Did you say something?"

Malin finishes with the cans and glances back at Mary. He walks over and stands behind Mary where she is looking at her reflection in a mirror and holding a jacket up in front of her chest. "I feel a cold winter coming. I thought you could use a warm coat."

"That's not what you said. I believe you said 'Curiosity killed the cat'."

"I'd never say such a rude thing." Malin wonders: Was she in my mind?

Mary looks at Malin's reflection in the mirror and notes his eyes sweeping over her image. For a moment she imagines that she can read his mind and suddenly she feels a rush of blood to her neck and cheeks. Blushing like a school girl...

She asks, "You picked this out for me?" Malin takes the fur jacket and holds it so that Mary can put her arms through the sleeves. "It's so soft. It must be very expensive."

"It complements your hair and skin tones nicely. It's yours."

"I can't possibly accept such an expensive gift."

Malin finally takes his eyes off of her reflection in the mirror and walks away. "Long ago when the mines were active, superintendent Brenner set up the Wenvoe Education Trust and built the new school. Of course, it's no longer new, but the Trust fund keeps us going. The fund disbursing rules specify that the school staff is to be adequately compensated... for all duties."

"Mr Crunn, you've sent my mind wheeling to imagine what duties I could perform to justify all the money you've spent on me during the past month. You are insanely wild in your spending, like when I complained about the old globe in the library...the next day you had a wagon load of new globes shipped in, one for each student."

Malin chuckles. "You reminded me just how much I love maps. I personally wore out that old globe when I was in school." He takes the fur jacket and places it in Mary's shopping bag. Then he helps her unbutton the blouse. "This is designed so that your servant does the buttons."

"You went to Cardiff and got this blouse for me and you expect me to wear it and forever need you nearby to do up all these annoying buttons?"

Malin puts the blouse into the bag with the jacket. "Of course...you'll wear this lovely blouse on Friday night for our dinner with Doc."

"Malin, why do you enjoy provoking doctor Nader into lecturing me about how to find a husband?"

"It's funny. I don't think she ever so much as kissed a man."

"That's obviously wrong. She's always talking about her great love and her tragic loss. You enjoy seeing her live vicariously through me."

"Miss Wiley couldn't tolerate Doc meddling in her long-distance romance."

Mary tried to draw some racy gossip about Miss Wiley out of Malin, but he again became silent.

For ten minutes Mary tried to argue Malin into letting her pay for the blouse and jacket.

National Railway Museum
Malin cleverly shifted the subject of their conversation. "I've been thinking about replacing the supply wagon and buying a lorry. Jack is old enough to drive now. Look at this ad in the Adviser...here's a cheap used truck for sale." He waves the newspaper in front of Mary. "I was ready to buy it, then I saw this enclosed van that's now on the market. Isn't it so much more elegant? If you think my spending is reckless maybe you can advise me on the purchase of a motor vehicle." 

Jack was the stock boy for the Supply Depot who routinely carted in supplies from Barry or Cardiff.

Mary points towards the bag that now holds the fur jacket. "Spending lavishly on other things like globes and a van won't make me feel any better about having such an expensive coat."

Malin rubs his chin and stares off into space. "In a few months, when I see the January snow falling down on the shoulders of that jacket, we'll both feel justified by the expense."

Mary giggles, "My, my...you have such a romantic soul, Malin. I suspect that were I to ask for it, tomorrow you'd have Jack hauling the Moon into Wenvoe by wagon."

"Mary, you might not have noticed, but even though we are beyond the edge of civilization, most nights we already do have the Moon here in Wenvoe. Come out with me tonight and I'll show you."

Mary asks, "Are you proposing a date, Mr. Crunn? When I decided to take the teaching position here, my mother warned me to be cautious about coming and going out with strange Welsh men."

"Bah. All you do is sit there in your tower all night reading."

"How do you know what I do at night, Mr. Crunn?"

Malin says no more and he begins whistling while he putters around the shop pretending to clean and making an obvious point of ignoring Mary's further questions.

Frustrated by Malin's elusiveness, Mary gives her students a writing assignment in which they are to describe their homes and their families. However, only the sons and daughters of the few local farmers complete the assignment, depriving Mary of any insight into the mysterious lives of the prospectors.

That evening, Malin arrives at Mary's house, which is one of the few inhabited residences in the crumbling village. He informs Mary that as the school superintendent he can't allow her to disrupt the education of the students with frivolities. He suggests that she not force upon her students any more blatant probes of their private lives disguised as school work.

Resenting Malin's evasiveness and the idea that he would presume to interfere with her classroom assignment, Mary bluntly asks, "Are you running some strange cult here? The prospectors and their boys all resemble you. Are you adherents of some freakish religion where you keep all the girls and women hidden away?"

Malin sighs deeply and asks, "Do you really want to know? Can't you just do your job and not stick your cute little nose into other folks' business?"

Mary knows that there is something strange going on and she can't control her curiosity. Pleased to hear him make a favorable comment about her physical person, but chilled by his mysterious aloofness, Mary comes to a sudden and firm decision. "I want to know."

Source: Ben Salter
Malin takes Mary by the hand and leads her  towards the door. Passing through the front entry she says, "Let me grab my hat!"

They step out of her house and amble down the shabby street to the Supply Depot. He takes her through a secret sliding door hidden inside a closet in the back office of the Depot. They go down a long set of spiral stairs. As the light from above fades, Mary complains, "I can't see."

Malin says, "Look, you'll be happier if you just turn around and go back up." He continues downward, his feet clanking on the metal steps.

Mary asks, "Where are you taking me? Can't we bring a torch?"

Malin calls up to her, "Just a second." Suddenly Mary can see a light below. She continues down to the bottom of the old mine shaft and is puzzled by the array of strange light fixtures that look like quartz panels set in the stone walls. Malin again takes her hand and pulls her into a small room.

A sliding door whisks shut behind them and he says, "Be warned, the elevator is fast." Suddenly the floor seems to drop out from under Mary and she grabs hold of Malin. As they plummet downward the air begins to warm. The heat keeps building and the elevator keeps dropping and dropping.

Finally the elevator stops and Malin pulls Mary by the hand through a second sliding door that opens in the back wall of the elevator car. They quickly walk through a long echoing tunnel that looks like it might be part of a mine. At the end of the tunnel the walls transition into a finished corridor where Malin pulls open a sliding door and they step out of the sauna-like air of the corridor and into a much cooler room.

The room looks like a factory locker room. Malin undoes his belt and takes off his trousers then opens a locker. He hangs up his pants then lifts a strange jacket off of a hook and pulls on the complex garment. Mary asks, "What is that?"

Malin tersly says, "You have to wear one of these coolers. Take off your dress."

Her heart racing and her thoughts swirling with questions about what Malin has in mind, Mary hesitates. Malin approaches her and undoes the buttons of her dress and removes a bulky beaded bracelet from her wrist and matching necklace from her slender neck. Mary shrugs off the dress and Malin offers a comment on the fabric band that constrains and flattens her breasts into boyish slimness, as dictated by the current fashion. "You'll be happier without that."

"Mr. Crunn, I suspect you will be happier the less I wear."

He acknowledges the truth of her suspicions with a nod and a grin. "I was favorably impressed that first day I saw you in Cambridge and I've been happy every day since your arrival and for my seeing you in Wenvoe...you are clever enough, I am sure, to know that you are a delightful sight clothed or ...not, Miss Goidel, and I understand the reluctance that you naturally feel in undressing now, but please believe me...this is for your own comfort and safety. I ask you to please disregard any pleasure I might gain from seeing your body and think only of yourself."

Mary pulls off the elastic breast restrainer and sighs, "It's a relief to be free of that pinching concession to high fashion."

Malin silently helps Mary pull on one of the complicated cooler suits. After her torso is again covered, Malin finds his tongue, "I like you better as woman than as a pretend boy."

Mary laughs. "Two compliments in one day. I had no idea you possessed such a gallant nature, Malin."

Malin busily roots around in a locker. Speaking ever his shoulder he says, "It might interest you to know that I wanted to bring you to Wenvoe two years ago when the opportunity first arose."

Mary asks, "Do you mean to tell me that Miss Wiley literally wasn't 'suitable'...did she refuse to undress for you and put on this silly jumpsuit?"

Malin approaches with an armful of equipment. "She was constantly writing to some distant and unseen don. If you found some of her letters you may know more about her great long-distance romance than I. She was never happy at Wenvoe and always seemed eager to leave. Hold this."

After meticulously adjusting her suit to fit the feminine contours of her body, he explains, "These are body coolers. You'll be glad to have one in a few minutes as long as you keep the flow of coolant circulating through the fabric...that means no tight spots or bunches in the suit. Put on these boots."

Slipping her feet into the odd boots, Mary is startled when they seem to magically seal closed and couple themselves to the rubbery legs of the cooler suit. In the thick soled boots she is suddenly three inches taller and a bit wobbly on her feet. Standing erect she sways and grabs Malin's arm to steady herself. She looks up into his eyes and says, "You are quite tall, Mr. Crunn."

"As are you." Malin hands her gloves and explains the set of complex head gear. It takes them several minutes to strap into the complicated equipment and activate the cooling and radio systems of the suits. He then pulls Mary through a doorway at the far end of the locker room and into a second elevator. They drop again and as the heat intensifies, now they need to pull the transparent masks tightly closed over their faces. Malin speaks to Mary using the radio units that are built into their suits. "Careful now, don't step in any puddles. The floor is just about at the boiling point."

When the elevator stops, the door slides open and they step out into a long tunnel that sparkles with crystals in the walls. Mary can feel intense heat under her boots, but the cooling suit prevents her from being burned. Still, she is very warm and sweating. "What is this place?"

Malin dryly says, "Some call it hell." After a long, down-sloping walk along the tunnel, he guides her through another sliding door. Once again in a cooled room, they pull open their masks and let the cool air caress their faces. Malin points to a strange device on a bench. "This is what you wanted to see."

Mary examines the glowing machine, which she has trouble focusing her eyes on. Malin touches the device and its appearance seems to become more solid. It is humming and vibrating slightly. She can't imagine what it might be for. It reminds her of some of the strange devices she saw in the physics labs in Cambridge. On the bench there are several heavy dewars. Malin unscrews the lid of one and pours what looks like water into a slot on the side of the humming device. "That's all there is to it."

Perplexed, Mary asks, "All there is to what?"

"This is why the prospectors hang around Wenvoe. There's a platinum deposit down here with a couple hundred leaching fields. The leached ron goes in here." He pats the odd machine. "That's all there is to it."

"Platinum mining?"

"No, there's little market for platinum. These are persistent ore fields because the platinum doesn't leach out."

"Then what's the point?"

Malin takes off his gloves and sets them on the bench. He pulls off his ring and hands it to Mary. He jokingly says, "With this ring I do thee indoctrinate into the secrets of hell." He leans over and gently brushes his lips across her sweaty cheek. "I've been wanting to do that for weeks."

Mary laughs. "Give me a ring? Is this a proposal?"

"Actually, I've dreamed of kissing you for years. Since that first day I saw you in Cambridge I've known that one day we would be here, together. I knew before that, even...but until that day four years ago I did not know who you were or when I'd meet you."

Mary shivers with the chill now being generated by her body cooler and the strangeness of Malin's words and the surprise of the unexpected hell she has found below Wenvoe. Here in this odd place, Malin suddenly seems fully alive and unguarded. Mary reaches towards him and gently strokes his chin with her finger tips. "When I first saw you I...I felt a connection. Like I already knew you."

Malin shuts off the cooler suits. "Of course you did. You're a recent, too."

"Recent?"

"Recently updated human. The Clyte is constantly tinkering, modifying, improving us." Malin opens another dewar and peers inside. "Look in here. Look through the ring." He takes hold of her hand and guides her fingers so that she holds the ring near her eye.

Bending over the bench top, Mary looks through the ring and into the dewar. She can suddenly see what looks like an explosion of blue sparks. The sparks are not visible except when looking through the ring. Malin explains, "All the prospectors use rings like this one to detect the ron."

"Ron? Do you mean radioactivity?" She draws back apprehensively.

"No, this is not dangerous."

"But what is it?"

Malin shrugs. "I can't do more than put a name on it. The Clyte call it ron. I'm not sure that the Clyte really knows much about it either."

Mary is growing dizzy. "I feel strange." She leans against the bench and closes her eyes. "Did you hear that?"

Malin whispers. "Relax. Hush. The Clyte is trying to explain something to you."

Mary "hears": Ron is a valuable form of matter. It is why the Clyte came to this dingy world.

Mary opens her eyes and looks at the glowing machine. "Radio?"

Malin smiles and says, "You heard it!" He shakes his head and replies to her question, "Something like radio, but in your head. I was worried that you might not be ready for this, but all is fine...Clyte is inside you. You are one of us."

"Us?"

"We prospectors. We who collect the ron. The Clyte only communicate with us, not other people, outside the mines. I don't think the Clyte are particularly interested in people."

Mary "hears" the disembodied "voice" again: Eventually humans or your descendants may become interesting.

Certain now that the voice is in her mind, Mary grabs hold of Malin's arms, "What's going on?"

Malin can see growing terror in her eyes. "Relax. Just relax. Come on, let's get out of here. There's nothing more to see."

Show her the clytellum.

Malin says, "No." He turns on their coolers, closes up their face masks, puts the ring back on his finger and they put their gloves on again. They return to the elevator shaft, but now the elevator will not move.

The Clyte insists: Show her the clytellum.

Mary asks, "Malin, what is going on? Tell me. Tell me everything."

Malin puts his arms around her and presses his mask against hers. I'm afraid. There's never been a woman down here. I don't trust the Clyte. The clytellum isn't something any woman wants to...

His lips were still...Mary felt Malin's "words" inside her...his thoughts inside her mind. She tries to send him her thoughts. Can you hear my thoughts?

Malin nods. But so can the Clyte. There can be no secrets.

The Clyte comments: Foolish man thing, why do you want to hide the truth from this garbha?

Mary could feel Malin's mind pulling back into his shell of secrecy. Returning to spoken language, Mary asks, "Malin, what are you hiding? Please, tell me... what is this hell hole really for?"

He shakes his head and looks away. The radio transmits his words, "There is too much to tell...and I don't know the whole story..."

The Clyte complains: Enough drama. Just tell her...or I will...

Malin feels Mary's arms around him and he can sense in her mind that she is wise and strong and can deal with the truth. Knowing that the Clyte has just put those reassuring thoughts in his head, suspecting that the Clyte is taking control of her mind and forcing her to be strong and curious, still he gives in and says, "The Clyte came here billions of years ago."

The Clyte elaborates: Only two billion.

"First they harvested the primitive life that was here and then blasted Earth with a giant asteroid. That cracked the crust and allowed a magma plume to reach the surface and cool. The ron came up from deep in the Earth."

The Clyte adds: All the planets with molten cores and crust are treated thus. The Clyte harvest ron from all the worlds.

Malin continues, "The Clyte started changing Earth's lifeforms and finally planted back in the seas of Earth the altered organisms...newly designed forms of life."

I've altered organisms through all of these past two billion years. I made humans.

Mary looks into Malin's eyes seeking confirmation. "These invisible Clyte creatures made us? Made humanity?"

Malin nods. "And the Clyte is still at it. Tinkering, modifying. So, I don't understand why the Clyte let you come down here, why it makes any sense at all for you to see the clytellum. Or why the Clyte explained any of this to me in the first place."

Because you asked me to explain.

"But why did you explain?"

Silly boy. I've worked two billion years to make a creature on this rock that could begin to understand what a billion years is. After all that time I've earned the right to share the truth with you. As your creator, are you going to defy me? Why? Because you love this cute garbha?

Malin shouts, "Don't call her that!"

Oh my, a temper tantrum. I do believe your male protective instincts are fully engaged. How charming. But I warn you, Miss Mary is not impressed by male rage.

Mary speaks to the unseen Clyte, "Even if you created me, I don't give you permission to snoop around in my mind and analyze my private thoughts."

Private thoughts? What a quaint idea. I can repeat and tell you every thought you've ever had. Malin, it might interest you to know the fantasies that Mary built up around you during the past four years...

Mary shouts, "Don't tell him that!"

The Clyte did not laugh, but Mary sensed from it something like amusement. Your pleading is futile. With time, your minds will fully open to each other and all your inner thoughts will be shared. Why fight this? I designed you to love each other. I've worked rather hard to perfect this thing called love.

Mary explains, "If you can see my thoughts, if you know my mind then surely you know that people do not like having their lives planned and arranged and directed. Particularly not by some scheming creature in hell!"

What a tongue, eh Malin? Did you guess that mild mannered Miss Mary would be so ungrateful to her creator? My child, it is quite futile to imagine that you can deny your affection for Malin just to prove a point to me. I could erase your desire to prove that point in an instant and you'd never even remember having had such a foolish thought. Yes, that's better. When you calm down you can think like the rational life form I designed you to be. Do you have any idea how hard I had to work just to get a few privileged garbha educated to the point where you can understand the Clyte?

 "Malin, what does it mean by 'garbha'?"

"I can only guess. It does not matter. Listen to me Mary...to the Clyte we are like insects. We are breeding stock in a breeding game that they have played for millions of years."

"Breeding? As in you and I...breeding...for them?"

"I don't know. Until today I was not sure that the Clyte would ever let a woman come down here."

Foolish man creature, years ago I told you that I would. I showed it to you in your thoughts, just as it has transpired. Twenty years ago I knew Mary was the one...I knew when I watched the little girl collecting fossils and crystals...then the woman studying chemistry and geology...

Mary complains to the Clyte, "Well now, listen. I'm very uncomfortable in this suit. I feel like I'm drowning in my own breath. Do you intend to show me this clytellum or not?"

Don't worry, my child, that suit won't let you suffocate or drown.

Malin takes Mary's hand. "Come on, then. Let's get this over with." He pushes open another door in the side wall of the elevator car, revealing a short corridor. After leading her down the corridor he pauses at another sliding door. "Remember, I warned you not to come down here. I'm warning you now not to go in there. There's nothing in there for you." Resigned to her stubborn insistence to know the truth, he slides open the door.

Mary can feel a rush of chilled air coming from the chamber beyond the door. She steps through the doorway and looks back at him, "Aren't you coming?"

Malin shakes his head. "No. I won't do anything to...this is a mistake. I'll wait here until you are finished in there."

The door closes. The chamber within is dim. While her eyes adapt to the gloom she pulls open her face mask and takes off her gloves. Moving towards the light, it seems to Mary like the black floor under her boots is stone; smooth and dry. Mary takes a deep breath of the cool air and shuts off her cooler suit. The air smells odd, like some mix of exotic spices.

With her vision adapting to the low light, Mary can now see two ghostly figures, a man and a woman, asleep in each others arms, resting on a quilt or thin mattress on the floor. To the side is another cooling suit, carelessly strewn across the floor. After taking a half dozen more steps across the floor, she can see that they are very young, apparently adolescents, perhaps a few years older than the age of the students when they graduated from the little school in the village. Mary thinks about the mystery of why she has never seen the wives of prospectors, why the sons of the prospectors refuse to describe their families. Suddenly Mary recognizes the boy: it is Jack, the stock boy.

Responding to her questioning thoughts, the Clyte says: I only make males.

Mary looks at the girl on the floor and wonders,  Then where is she from? And I thought you said that you made me, too.

Well, that is not a she. That's the clytellum...an artificial woman...an extension of me, a thing that I  designed to please a male, to collect sperm. Look at the back of its neck.

Mary approaches the sleeping couple and hesitates.

They won't awaken.

Mary kneels down and can only see a thin pillow under the boy's head. The girl's head is off the edge if the mattress, resting on the cool stone floor. Mary notices what looks like a thin, flexible tube, coiling across the floor...slowly bending and twisting with a snake-like motion. The tube runs from the back of the girl's neck into a hole in the floor. An artificial woman?

Watch this.

Mary watches as the young girl transforms into what looks like a copy of Mary. Then the artificial woman morphs into the shape of another woman, older and obviously pregnant. Then the clytellum returns to the form of the young girl.

Mary begins to tremble, not certain what she has just seen. She asks, So, this clytellum is you...Clyte, clytellum.

Almost. It is more accurate to say that this clytellum is an interface by which I can interact with animals. A convenience. 

Mary suggests: So the prospectors don't have wives. None of them.

I use the prospectors of Wenvoe as my little helpers...of course I could collect all the ron by myself, but people need to have something to do. I allow them to imagine that they are normal humans, but they've been made for a higher purpose. Letting them have wives would be a useless extravagance. The clytellum is adequate.

Mary feels sick. It disgusts me that you use people in this way. All for your precious ron?

The Clyte came here for ron. I stayed so I could play with the primitive life of this world. I made humans and still I am not satisfied. Humans are just one step along the way.

Mary asks, The way to what?

Who knows? Something like the Clyte? Something else? Only time will tell. 

Mary closes up her cooler suit, exits from the clytellum chamber, takes hold of Malin's hand and says, "Get me out of here."

___________________________

I cannot publish your story for many reasons. Your depiction of a sexual relationship between minors and ancient aliens in hell is not the kind of material that is welcomed by the publisher of Astounding. I'm annoyed by your use of the present tense in the chapter that I read and...
     - excerpt from the rejection letter for Miners of Earth
_________________________________________________________________

Editor's note. Thomas constructed several versions of Miners of Earth. I've reconstructed Chapter 1, above, so as to be close to the version that was originally submitted for publication. After the rejection of his proposal to serially publish the novel one chapter a month, Thomas rewrote the novel, incorporating some of the suggestions he had received. Thomas had an extensive collection of illustrations to accompany the text. I've substituted alternative illustrations for his hand-drawn art work.

Chapter Two of Thomas Iwedon's The Miners of Earth
___________________________

The door automatically slid shut behind them and Malin pulled Mary down to sit on a curved shelf that now protruded low on the wall. No sooner had they seated themselves and the elevator took them up from hell. Mary gasped at the sudden force of the acceleration. "How deep are we?"

"The clytellum chamber is about five miles down."

Mary complained, "No mine is that deep." Malin had nothing to say. Mary felt dizzy and wondered what it would be like to vomit in her sealed cooling suit.

Malin had for years shared thoughts with the Clyte, but now Mary's mind had been opened up to him and he was intrigued and delighted by what he was finding there. However, her experience in the clytellum chamber had disrupted the pattern of her mind. Now, sifting through her thought currents, Malin could sense Mary's discomfort. Put your legs up on the bench.

Mary reclined and rested her head in his lap. Gazing up at his face, she almost instantly felt better and mercifully the acceleration of the elevator car ended. How can we know each other's thoughts?

Malin explained, When it is convenient for the Clyte then it allows people to communicate in this way.

It? They? What is the Clyte? Mary could sense that Malin was sorting through possible answers in his mind.

The Clyte cut into their discussion. I'm an ancient artificial life form...sent out into the universe long ago to harvest ron.

The elevator decelerated and slowed to a halt. The door opened and Malin helped Mary get to her feet. They returned to the locker room and pulled off the cooler suits. Malin handed her a towel and Mary dried most of the sweat off of her body and began to dress in her clothing. Malin said, "Don't put that ridiculous brassiere back on. The dresses you wear simply swallow your figure. You look like a boy walking around in a sac."

"So, I'm a boy in sack? Ug...so much for your gallantry. Let me guess... you'd prefer me dressed as a slinky tart walking some alley off the Strand. Well, I suppose it doesn't matter...it must be dark out by now." She put on her dress and started fastening the buttons.

Malin moved behind her and helped with the buttons. It was more fun undressing...

She turned her head and thought at him, You've been so distant since I came to Wenvoe...I had no idea what was going on in your thoughts.

Malin put their two cooler suits back into lockers. I'm glad you're not shocked by what I think when I'm near you.

Mary laughed rather nervously. I am a bit, at least surprised by...

Malin could feel her pulling back, trying to close her thoughts off. They left the locker room and hurried down the corridor to the next elevator. They sat for the ride and as they started upwards they were again squashed down by the force of the elevator rushing towards the surface. When the acceleration eased, Mary again sensed his mind: You should just relax. I'll eventually see the thoughts you are keeping from me...what is this secret you are trying to hide...something about your cousin?

Mary could not just relax. "We're the same age, we grew up together. We liked each other..."

Enough fragments of her memories leaked through to Malin. "I understand."

Mary asked, "You're not shocked?"

"You were both young and smart...curious and playful...why shouldn't you have enjoyed your bodies when you were growing up?"

"Well, it's not something a lady brags about...playing doctor. But I sense in your mind a similar story... so perhaps my youthful shenanigans were just kid stuff compared to your childhood." She thought of Jack down in the clytellum chamber and could picture Malin down there, given anything he desired by the Clyte. "I'm just a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of the...animal...desires that I sense in your mind..."

"I'm a man. No doubt the Clyte has been preparing me for years, gradually nudging me and shaping my tastes and emotions to match...you."

"Does it offend you to know that you are a puppet of the Clyte?"

"Puppet?" He shrugged. "Call it what you like...that is the life I have lived. I'm not surprised that you are offended by my...animal...shallowness."

Mary could sense that he was laying bare his inner thoughts, being honest...unless the Clyte were tricking her. I can see in your mind... you are comparing me to Diana. "Now I'm jealous."

"Sorry, but I'm not going to try to hide my thoughts from you. Had Diana finished up at Newnham before you, I would have offered her the teaching job."

The Clyte interjected: No, man thing. Diana knows nothing about geology. I delayed her so that you would not bring Diana here first. There is no remaining doubt...during this past month I have confirmed that Mary is perfect...the one.

Mary concentrated on the quick bursts of thought that she could sense in Malin's mind. "I see it all in your mind. If I did not work out...if I was not suitable...then Diana would have been next. And I see glimmers of...another girl in your mind. Many others...I can almost recognize some of them..."

Malin picked up her hand and pressed it between both of his. "I've been surprised to learn just how many women have been fathered by prospectors. But they do not matter now. You are what the Clyte needed."

The elevator rides were completed and they started climbing the metal stairs. Mary wondered out loud, "What the Clyte needed? What about you?"

"I'm relieved that you are...you. You're taking this all so well, almost in stride. I'm glad that you are not repulsed by me."

Mary laughed. "Here in this dark hole I almost feel like I'm in a dream. Repulsed? I can see into your thoughts...I know that you are honest and..." She relaxed her mind. I like you, too. And I can sense that the Clyte has long schemed and maneuvered and pushed you and I together...and I know that it has some great adventure planned for us.

They reached the surface and emerged into the dark Depot. He lit a lamp and Malin's swirling thoughts slowed into a linear pattern. You are right. I don't know where it expects us to go...but the Clyte expect us to leave Wenvoe.

Mary could now see in Malin's mind that the couch in the Depot's back office was where he spent much time, often reading at night. "You don't sleep?"

Malin replied, "Sometimes I do fall asleep, out of boredom, but we prospectors don't need to sleep."

"I've always wondered why...in my family....none of us sleeps more than a few hours at a time." She took his hand. "Come, we missed dinner." The Depot was well stocked with canned and dried food for the prospectors, but Mary was disgusted by the almost total lack of concern that Malin held for food in his thoughts. They strolled through the deserted village towards her house. "I'll cook us a real dinner and you can tell me about the Clyte."

Malin quietly muttered, "The less you know the better."

"I want to know everything."

"You don't, not really. After seeing the clytellum do you really want to know..."

Mary felt that Malin's mind had a closed off part, some of his past that he had tried to forget. "I do, rather..."

They had returned to the house that Mary had been living in for the past month. Together they prepared a meal and then they ate, avoiding all discussion of the Clyte and that evening's earlier journey to hell. Mary talked about her family and Malin watched her with a growing sense of horror. Now becoming aware of the structure of her family, he realized that her life had been nearly as strange as his own. He ate very little and finally she asked, "You don't enjoy my cooking?"

Malin shrugged and tried to invent an excuse for his lack of appetite, "I'm used to eating out of a can."

Mary laughed, "You don't sleep, you don't eat. It can't have been much of a life for you growing up here. Prospectors don't have mothers?"

Malin was relieved that she had stopped talking about her family, but he knew that his childhood was even more of a horror. "I was one of the lucky ones. Most prospectors are rejects, used for gathering ron and..."

Mary completed the thought she had glimpsed in his mind: and breeding more prospectors.

"No, I don't think so. Once the Clyte relegates a boy to the mines I don't think his genes are wanted, or needed, anymore."

Mary had never seriously studied biology, but she had come across discussions of genes in her reading. She had read The Physical Basis of Heredity by Morgan. "Are you saying that these odd boys who I teach don't have fathers or mothers?"

Malin slowly shook his head. "The Clyte can make a person, line up the desired genes on a set of chromosomes and there need be no parents, certainly no natural act of conception. But the Clyte are rather secretive about their genetic experiments. I do know this: the Clyte select a few prospectors, the brightest ones, and send them out, away from the mines, to live among the free people of Earth. Your family is a good example."

"You mean my father was a prospector?"

Malin nodded then added a correction, "Is."

Mary asked, "Is? You don't know what you're talking about. My father died in the war when I was eleven."

Malin contradicted her, "Your father is still alive."

Mary demanded, "Let me see that in your mind!" Malin opened up his thoughts to her and guided her through his memories....he could sense that she was furious. "I see in your memories... the Clyte told you that he is alive. But I don't understand what they told you...about where he is."

Malin gazed off into dark corner of the room, sorting his memories. "I never did understand that myself. A bunch of nonsense about jumping to Clytel."

The Clyte elaborated: Many simple truths seem like nonsense to primitive beasts like humans.

Mary challenged the Clyte, "Are you suggesting that I can't understand? If you know where my father is, if he is truly alive then tell me!"

I'd rather show you, my child.

Malin could sense a deep layer of meaning in the thought pattern of the Clyte. He shouted, "No!"

Mary, not yet as sensitive to thought reading, looked at the suddenly angered Malin and asked, "What?"

She could see an answer in Malin's thoughts: The Clyte means it wants to send you away...take you off of Earth. Mary asked, "My father is alive, but no longer on Earth?"

The Clyte corrected Malin: you will both leave this world, together.

Malin spoke in a hushed voice, "So that is the great adventure...of course, now I see....I was a fool." He reached across the table and placed his hand over Mary's. "I should never have brought you here. I was selfish, unthinking..."

Mary placed her other hand on top of his. "Well, now wait. I'm not sure I understand, but if my father is alive...maybe we can find him."

Malin asked, "You'd leave Earth, leave the rest of your family, because the Clyte tells you a story about your father being alive? You'd volunteer to be taken away from Earth?"

"Well, there must be other worlds...I see it in your mind, Malin, what you have been told about jumping to Clytel." She asks the Clyte: Is Clytel your world, the planet that you came from?

There was no answer from the Clyte. Malin pulled his hand away from Mary, took his plate to the kitchen and started washing up. They cleaned in silence then Malin said, "I think it is more complicated...it is not that the Clyte came to Earth from Clytel. And Clytel is not a world like Earth, it is..." He fell silent, his brow furrowed in deep thought.

Again, Mary could not follow his quick and fleeting pattern of thought. She prompted, "What?'

He shook his head, unable to put his vague and fugitive thoughts into words. Maybe it is...a state of existence...something different from anything we know here on Earth.

Mary whispered, "Would you go? Would you abandon Earth to go searching for this...Clytel. If my father is out there, I'd have a reason to go, but you...you are so dedicated to the prospectors here. Would Wenvoe survive if we went off on a journey?"

All the dishes were washed and dried and stowed in cabinets. Malin took Mary's hand and led her out to the porch. They sat on the front steps and for a while watched the stars and listened to insects. In the distance a farm yard dog barked. Mary said in wonder, "Your thoughts are swirling!"

After several minutes Malin finally felt his mind settle into a new order. "It is as if a curtain has been lifted...so much that I had been told I never understood." He brought her hand up and pressed his lips to her fingers. "A puzzle piece finding its mate. You really want to know about my past?"

He knew that he had to tell this story. "I was worried. I've always had the Clyte in my head. They allowed me to...have access to your thoughts and those of your sisters. I knew nothing about women, but I understood that one of these wonderful creatures would come here and be linked to my mind. I thought that experience might be horrifying...I worried... an outsider suddenly learning about the Clyte...

Mary shook her head in wonder. "No. You need not have worried. It was always there in my mind. I have...memories...of my mother being told these things by the Clyte. I hear it now, putting the thoughts in her mind: 'you are not ready, but one of your daughters will be prepared for what must be done...' I never understood that until today, but it has always been a part of me, so nothing that I've seen today is really a surprise."

Malin asked, "Tell me, what did you see down there...the clytellum...what was it doing?"

Mary told him about the sleeping boy. Malin chuckled. "Jack, that rascal. That was me...ten years ago. My earliest childhood is like a dream memory, memories I'm not sure that I lived. Then I went to school, but still I was not...alive." He fell silent.

Mary again could not follow his racing thoughts. She brought up her free hand and placed it on his cheek. "Not alive?"

Malin's mind came back from the past and he was momentarily shocked to find himself in the presence of the marvelous Miss Mary. He put an arm around her and pulled her close and whispered, "How do you think it would be possible to move memories from one person into another? Imagine...when you have your first daughter..."

She giggled nervously, "Do you mean if I have a daughter?"

"Sh." He suggested, "When we have our first daughter, what if we could put all of your memories into her mind, give her some bundle of memories to...start with."

Mary thought back to her own childhood. "A girl should make her own memories, but...you are right. It is like a dark blot has been removed...it is as you say, there never was a little girl named Mary. I was Jane. It took me years to sort Mary out from Jane. I was...I was my mother...and....no! This can't be true." She looked into Malin's eyes: dark holes in the star light. "Can it?"

Malin could see in her racing thoughts the horrible truth that the Clyte had now let her glimpse. He put both arms around her and rocked her gently. "I don't know which is worse, what the Clyte did to me or what they did to you."

"I knew...I always knew. My father...my father..." She could not say it.

Malin could not say it either, but the thought was there inside and ready to share with her: I never knew my father, but...my father might have been your father.

You don't know that!

But it does not matter. It might be true. A father is nothing to the Clyte. They make us every which way, how ever they want to.

"It can't be true." She said it with no conviction, knowing that he might be right. After a long silence she gathered her courage and said, "My whole family tree, populated with tragic deaths. Fake deaths. My grandfather...  My father...  My uncle... Of course Diana looks like me...we had the same father. And my mother Jane, my aunt Ann...their father was...my father. And my gramma Nova..."

Malin whispered in her ear, "Sh, sh, stop this. You're doing no good."

"No, I need to say it. I need to...believe this, not hide it, not hide the truth. Why did the Clyte hide this from me? Why am I now allowed to know this strange and twisted truth?"

Malin explained. "Now I understand. When the Clyte find a version of human that they prize, when a good combination of genes is found...they don't let it go. They keep at it and at it, again and again, over and around... mixing those genes up and in and around ...your family is like some collection of musical variations on a theme. As are the prospectors here in Wenvoe. ...year after year, generation after generation until the Clyte had produced what it needed... you and I."

Mary looked up at the bright stars and shivered. She snuggled closer to Malin for the warmth of his body and the clear, calm insight of his mind. If father is alive, then what about my grandmother Nova?

Malin asked, "What about her?"

"I was told that she did not want to live without my grandfather. That she killed herself. But that was in 1914...not long after my father went to France. Of course, I believed that my grandfather had died young..."

The Clyte was with them, as always, following their thoughts. Now the Clyte knew that Mary was ready for some truth that she could not pull from her own memories. It was sixty years ago. You know him as your great grandfather, Peter...Papa Goidel. I sent him out and he found a wife. Among his daughters, Nova was the one who could best pass her memories along to her daughters. Clara, her little sister, I tried breeding with another prospector, William Wiley...as you said, a subtle variation on the Peter theme...those results were not favorable, but Miss Wiley, Clara's grand daughter served here two years while you finished your study of geology.

Malin needed to be certain that he understood. He asked, "Peter was Nova's father...and Jane's father...and Mary's father?"

Does that surprise you, my children? Yes, Mary's father, uncle, grandfather and great grandfather was the same man. Nova was able to pass memories on to Jane and Jane passed her memories on to Mary. I knew then that Mary would be able to share her thoughts with you, Malin, and because of her scientific interests she would be able to understand why her father left Earth.

 Mary shivered. "Let's go inside, Malin."

They lit a lamp and stoked the coal burning furnace and Mary said, "I'm worn out...it's all too much for one day." She took his hand and led him up to the second floor. She set the lamp on a table. "This is my library. My mother sends me another case of my books each week. What do you like to read?"

She could see in his mind reactions to her books as he read the titles. Ah, you like Verne. "Here's my copy of Around the World...maybe we should brush up on it if we are going to be leaving Wenvoe, eh?" She handed him the book. "I want you here, near me." She reached up and put her hands behind his neck, and pulled his face down so she could kiss his cheek. "You're so damned tall. I've been wanting to kiss you for weeks, but you were so aloof. Goodnight!" She went to the room where she slept.

Malin dropped the book next to the lamp and called to her down the hall, "Wait, you can't go."

She looked back at him, glancing over her shoulder. He came slowly down the hall and then unbuttoned her dress, kissing her back where each button was pushed aside. She whispered, "Thank you," and went into her room, where it was quite dark. The rising Moon casting some light through the window. She slipped off her dress and got into bed under the quilts. She called to him where he stood in the hallway. "Goodnight."

Malin went back to the library and picked up Around the World in Eighty Days. Thinking about geography and travel from London to Egypt, he remembered that the Clyte had recently asked him to contact Albrecht Blumenthal in Turin. He wondered, Italy?

An image of the Alps filled his mind. Mary was still prowling through Malin's thoughts. She wondered, There is another Clyte mine in Italy?

Malin replied, So I have been told...not too far from Turin.

From Mary, drifting into sleep: Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom...

Malin looked at the book shelves and saw: Albrecht von Blumenthal. Coincidence? There are no coincidences with the Clyte. He reached for the book and pulled it from the shelf.

Two hours latter Mary came back to the library where Malin was reading. She put her arms over his shoulders and hung her head next to his, peering at the book he was reading. "I don't know why I bought that. I can barely read German."

Malin turned his head and brushed his lips against her cheek. Her eyes were still blurry with sleep and he could hear her thought: I couldn't sleep with you in here.

I'm sorry I bothered you. I should have closed the door...

She settled into his lap and draped herself across his long body, snuggled into his chest. "I like having you near...soon I will awaken from this nightmare."

Malin closed Blumenthal's book about Aeschylus and placed the slim volume on the table beside the lamp and put his arms around Mary. "Blumenthal has some interesting ideas about...history."

I'm not sure he conceives of a gap between reality and fiction.

The question is, why has the Clyte drawn our attention to Blumenthal.

Mary asked, "Can the Clyte make me think or do anything? Make me walk into a book store and buy a particular book?"

Malin suggested, "I think you might need to change your conceptualization of Mary Nova Goidel."

Mary turned her head and looked into his eyes. "I suppose you," She touched the tip of his nose, "think that you understand me better than I know myself."

"No, my plan is to spend many pleasant decades learning all there is to know about you. But I grew up here as a prospector...I think I was born knowing that I was not a normal human being. You had to live out there and you were allowed to think of yourself as...normal."

"Well, I never felt normal. I never fit in. I had to keep quiet and pretend that I was part of British society. It was always a relief to return home where there were different rules, another set of conventions."

"Hmm."

"What does that mean? You keep closing off your mind."

"Well, I'm afraid of offending you. And you do it, too."

Mary sat up on his thighs and took his hands in hers. "Okay, when ever you close your thoughts to me I'll say...clytellum. When I close you off, you say-"

"Diana. In fact, let's just both say Diana. When the Clyte decided to apprentice me at the Depot, I was cut off from the clytellum. That entire part of my childhood seems like a bad dream."

"But I don't want you thinking about Diana."

Malin asked, "Why not? I think you have great taste in women."

"Have you ever met her?"

"You probably know, she was in the Newnham College Boat Club. One day I was in Cambridge and saw her rowing. Nice pectorals."

Mary pretended to slip off his legs and landed a dirty blow. "Yes, she's got a flamboyant figure, while I look like a boy."

Malin laughed and pulled her back into his embrace. "Diana"

"I don't want to think about that hussy."

Malin said, "I  can see your thoughts. You think about her all the time. There's something more, beyond your love for her..."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Love is rather ridiculous. I think the Clyte planned it that way. But it makes sense that you find Diana attractive. The Clyte made women to be temples...places of worship."

"What about men?"

"Men are to be cast upon the alter...and judged by the woman."

Mary tapped his chest, "That's a fine theory, but just remember: I consider you cast upon the alter of Mary."

"Don't forget to let me know what your judgement is."

"When you stop closing parts of your mind to me then I'll be able to issue my decree."

"You still don't trust me."

"I don't even trust that I won't wake up and find that this Clyte nonsense has all been a bad dream. Strangely, I do trust you, but I don't trust the Clyte to be letting me make that assessment on my own."

The Clyte again intruded in their thoughts: I think it would be best if Mary also sends a letter to Diana.

Mary asked, "What letter?"

Malin thought he knew. "The Clyte want Diana to take over here at the school when we leave town."

The Clyte suggested: If you write your letters now then Jack can have them in the post first thing in the morning. If you are both enthusiastic, she will quickly accept the job offer and be here next week.

Mary says, "My understanding is that Diana is doing research with Lorna Swain...applied mathematics for aircraft design."

The Clyte explains: I shut that project down two weeks ago...then you two decided to keep dancing around each other. Diana is back home now with nothing to delay her from quickly responding to your letters.

Malin added: And Jack is ready to take over at the Depot. But who will the new apprentice be?

The Clyte asked Mary: Which of your students is the most mature?

Mary's favorite was a clever daughter of one of the local farmers, but she knew that the Clyte wanted one of the recently designed "prospectors". The oldest prospector in school, Allen.

Then all is settled, and the Clyte withdrew from their thoughts.

Malin wrote a formal letter offering Diana the teaching position, on Mary's recommendation. Mary wrote her own letter, explaining that she and Malin were soon departing for the Continent and so an emergency replacement for Mary was needed at the Wenvoe school.

Malin was ready to put both letters into one envelop, but Mary hesitated. "What's wrong?"

"I'm not sure that Diana will be happy here."

"The Clyte will take care of it...unless..."

"What?"

"I hope you're not going to tell me that this is another Miss Wiley situation. Does she have a boy friend?"

"No, Diana doesn't like boys, but the last I heard she was living with...what was her name? Katie? Cathy. Cathy Nader. That's it."

"Oh, my."

"What?"

"Oh, nothing."

Mary insisted, "Clytellum."

"Why do you need to know everything?"

"Why do you think you have to keep secrets from me?"

Malin sighed and shook his head. "I suppose I should not be surprised. Remember how I explained to you that you are related to Miss Wiley?"

"Yes..."

"Well, it's the same story for Cathy Nader."

"What...do Diana and Cathy know this?"

"I doubt it."

"How closely related are they?"

"I don't know. Your family tree makes my head spin." He sat back down at the table and took up pen and paper. He sketched out what he knew about her relatives. "It's like this. Papa Goidel had three daughters back in the middle of the last century. One was your grandmother, Nova. One was Miss Wiley's grandmother. The other was Cathy's grandmother."

"Growing up I never heard about Nova's sisters...there was just the immediate family, eight women in two wings of the Goidel mansion. The more I probe the memories I have of my father the more I wonder if they were real...or some invention of the Clyte that was slipped into my mind." She sealed her letter into the envelop with Malin's.

Malin took the envelop and looked towards the door. Before he could step out to find Jack, Mary moved close and put her hands up on his shoulders. He kissed the top of her head and then her eyebrows and would have proceeded downward, but she said, "Don't distract me. I remembered something else. Blumenthal has been involved in translating some ancient tablets that were found in Umbria."

"Yes, that was why I wrote to him."

"Why would the Clyte care about translating lost documents from ancient times? If the Clyte have been here for billions of years, don't they know all of human history?"

"I don't think they do. I've gotten the idea that the Clyte abandoned Earth repeatedly. Sometimes they return for a while."

"Why?"

"There's really nothing here for them. I think they get bored and leave."

"Then why is the Clyte so interested in you and I?"

"That I don't know, but I think your great grandfather, Peter, figured out what the Clyte are up to. And if he figured out this mystery, then I think we can too." Malin kissed the tip of her nose and went off to give Jack the envelop.

Mary's life, that for a month had sunken into a depressing rural doldrums of daily routine, seemed to accelerate without stop into the future from the day that Malin took her to hell. The same day that they sent their letters off to Diana, Malin received a letter from Albrecht Blumenthal. He read it to Mary across their dinner table. Blumenthal was now pursuing clues from an ancient document that mentioned an ancient Etruscan mine. He invited Malin to visit, but he knew not where he would be in the coming weeks. He was working his way north towards the Alps in search of an ancient and lost Etruscan settlement.

Mary took the letter from Malin and peered at Blumenthal's rambling German prose. "Why would the Clyte be interested in the Etruscans?"

Malin started one of his flashing memory streams. After a minute his thoughts returned to normal. "I think I just accessed some of the memories that the Clyte...built into me. The Clyte believe that the Etruscan civilization should have risen to rule the Mediterranean."

Mary giggled. "What are you talking about?"

"They arrived from the East and quickly dominated the local primitive tribes. Then, defeat. Crushing humiliation. Their civilization was superseded, forgotten...but why?"

"I think you've been infected by Blumenthal's extravagant imagination."

Malin shrugged. "Why do you ask questions if you are just going to mock me when I answer?"

"Sorry, but I don't understand. The Clyte try to guide the course of human civilization? The Clyte wanted the Etruscan Empire rather than the Roman Empire?"

"Someone did. Imagine this: a Mediterranean world were men and women were equals, where eastern arts and sciences flourished, where the industrial revolution arrived centuries sooner."

Mary laughed. "Let me guess. The Clyte made the Etruscans, established them in Italy."

Malin nodded, "Something like that. Think about your family. Matriarchs handing their memories down from generation to generation. Look at the social changes in England over the past century...women being allowed to receive educations and vote. Imagine that happening 2,000 years ago. But then it all went wrong."

Mary stopped laughing. "Are you trying to tell me that Blumenthal has found evidence to support this fantasy?"

"We're going to have to go to Italy and try to find out. Remember, I told you that the Clyte don't seem to care about human civilization...who wins which war, who conquers and who is elected. But..."

But what if the Clyte are not alone? What if there are other visitors to Earth who do care, who try to pick the winners and losers of human history?

Two days later they each received a letter from Diana. She would arrive the next weekend and be ready to meet her students the following week. She would be arriving with Cathy.

Malin looked up from his letter and saw Mary tittering over hers. He asked, "What's so funny?"

Mary folded up the letter. "This is private correspondence, but since I know you can't resist sticking your cute nose in my personal business..."

Malin bent down and kissed her nose. "Mmm...that sounds like fun."

"Diana asked me about you and why I'm running off to Italy with you. She said that we remind her of some silly Shakespearean play."

Malin chuckles, "I can see you as Julia, on your way to Milan."

Mary put her arms up behind his shoulders and pulled his head down towards her face. She whispered in his ear, "I don't dress like a boy."

"You don't wear any of the flashy clothing that I buy for you."

 "I suppose you'll expect me to bring the fur coat to Italy."

"Of course, we might end up in the Alps."

"If I dressed like a tart then the Proctors would run me out of town."

The Proctor farm was the largest in Wenvoe and there were three Proctor children in the school.

"Remember, I'm firing you from you schoolmarm position and promoting you to world traveler. We'll outfit you with a chic continental wardrobe as soon as we get across the Channel."

"All expenses paid on the Wenvoe school fund?"

"That's just one of the financial instruments that the Clyte designed."

"Where do they get their money?"

"I suspect the Clyte have vast stockpiles of gold and other valuables. I have access to the school money and a fat bank account for the Supply Depot which was set up long before my time.

Mary wondered: About the Proctors...what do you think they'll do when Diana and Cathy set up housekeeping together?

I sent Cathy a job offer yesterday. I suppose we'll just tell the proctors that two smart women in the community are better than one.

What is Cathy's background?

She graduated from the London School of Medicine and worked at South London Hospital during the war. She was doing physiology research with Roughton in Cambridge when she met Diana.

Impressive. Don't you think both Diana and Cathy are over-qualified for the position of 'schoolmarm'?

You want to know why they are so eagerly coming to the edge of civilization?

Exactly.

Well, Wenvoe offers several things, all the wealth of the Clyte and that is backed by their strange power of persuasion. I also told Cathy that she can build a state-of-the-art medical clinic and research lab here in the Vale.

I see. That sounds exciting. Maybe I should stay here and help Cathy get that project going. You could run off to Italy with Diana...I'm sure she'd look fantastic in chic continental clothes.

Malin laughed. "Are you really jealous of Diana?"

"I'll decide after I see Cathy. I want to know if she's as tall as you are and if she's a better kisser."

"Does that mean you're in the mood for some research?" She was. They shared their first full-scale and high-moisture kiss. I'm afraid I'm going to need several decades of practice to make sure I get this right.

Malin went to Cardiff with Jack and bought a new Rolls-Royce Phantom. The next day they met Diana and Cathy at the train station and Jack drove the Rolls to Wenvoe. Cathy asked if the car was new. Malin admitted that it was. "I realized that you will want to explore the Vale and find a good location for your medical center. Wenvoe itself is probably too sleepy. This car is yours, but Jack can drive you anywhere you need to go."

"Jack drives like a nervous child," Cathy observed. "I've been driving for years. I'd feel silly with a driver."

Jack muttered, "This is my first day driving, but I'm learning."

Diana was more interested in Malin than the car. She asked, "So, why are you taking my dear Mary off to Italy?"

Before answering, Malin tried testing to see if the Clyte would allow any direct thought exchange with Diana or Cathy, but it seemed that he could not even establish the basic empathic connection that he and Mary had felt the first day that they met. "We've discovered a common interest in the history of mining. We're off on a romantic quest to find a lost Etruscan gold mine."

Diana asked suspiciously, "Just how romantic, Mr. Crunn? Judging by the letter I got from Mary she is quite smitten with you."

Malin nodded. "Well, I must admit that I've taken advantage of your cousin. She quickly became bored with the quiet village of Wenvoe and I made myself a ready distraction. Just a few days ago she even granted me a wish and we shared our first kiss. At this rate I anticipate two or three more before the end of the year."

Diana laughed. "Mary was always a shy little girl, an introverted bookworm. I'm not sure if she's spoken about our childhood...I suppose I shocked her with my wildness."

Malin pretended to be unaware of Diana's past. "Shocked? Surely a lady like you wouldn't know how to shock anyone."

Cathy said, "Surely you jest, Mr. Crunn. Diana goes out of her way to twist, contort and generally turn conventions on their heads. She's an expert at turning heads...your boy Jack is likely to put us in a ditch for not being able to keep his eyes off of her."

"I can scarcely blame the lad. You make a dashing couple...it's amusing to imagine the impact that your arrival will have on our sleepy Vale."

Cathy sighed loudly. "This is such a backwater. Maybe we can start to bring Wales into the current century."

Malin handed a folder to Cathy. "Towards that end, we should visit the Provincial bank tomorrow and establishing your authority over the Glamorgan Medical Trust."

After a minute Cathy handed the folder to Diana. She looked at the prospectus and exclaimed, "Five million pounds? Can this be right?"

Malin chuckled, "It might not be right, but it should get Dr. Nader's clinic project underway."

Cathy handed back the folder to Malin. "I can't imagine where so much money must be coming from."

Malin shrugged, "Ah, as to that, I'm not at liberty to say. There is a family with old money from mining and shipping and other enterprises that wishes to aid the social and cultural development of communities with dilapidated ports and exhausted mines. The family name is not Crunn...I'm just a prospector's son who has been called upon to help spend some money where it can do good."

Diana asked, "Does that philanthropic plan include shy science students named Mary and random nations such as Italy?"

Malin shook his head. "With Dr. Nader arriving in the Vale I feel I can sneak off for a research expedition. Do you know that the Etruscans had their own mining boom thousands of years ago, much like what Wales has experienced?"

Cathy remarked, "Hrmph. It seems like a tenuous connection to...modern concerns."

Diana added, "Quite so. With winter approaching, it seems like a feeble excuse for a young man to slip off with a lover to a warm Mediterranean destination."

Malin was on the verge of starting to try to justify the planned trip over seas, but the Clyte was heavy in his mind: Say nothing, boy. Soon they will forget the whole matter.

And the Clyte was correct. Cathy began describing a local Welsh doctor who she wanted to consult with about possible locations for the new medical clinic. Cathy and Diana never again questioned the fact that Mary and Malin would soon leave home for far shores.
_______________________

Editor's Note. That was the end of Chapter Two in Miners of Earth. Chapter Three described the travel of Mary and Malin from Wales to Italy and the growing entanglement of their minds. At the end of the Chapter they finally caught up with Blumenthal in Macugnaga.
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Blumenthal explained that the ancient north Etruscans, with their capitol in Felsina, had metal mines in places like Macugnaga. The Etruscans shipped fine worked metal products out of their ports on the coast.

Blumenthal described a high culture that briefly bloomed in Felsina, then quickly collapsed, leaving almost no record of its existence.

 Having consumed considerable wine during and after dinner, Mary, Malin and Blumenthal became rather animated. Mary challenged Blumenthal's rather romantic view of a great north Etrscan civilization. Blumenthal brought out a set of engraved metal plates.

Mary found the engraved symbols incomprehensible, but the metal itself was interesting. Puzzled by the metal, she said, "Malin told me that you had seen some engraved bronze plates. This isn't bronze."

Macugnaga nodded. "Those bronze tablets are not this old, but they led me here to Macugnaga. I don't know what metal this is...or even that it is metal."

Malin asked, "Can you read this script?"

"Not really. But I tell you...these plates do speak to me. There is a familiarity in this writing...I...I know what it means. Look, this is a lineage, these are dates, these the names. But there is more. Look at this." Blumenthal pulled what looked like a cigar case from his pocket. He pulled out what at first looked like a fine while cloth, but it unrolled and spread upon the table, moving like a smoke cloud then settling upon the table like a sheet of pure white paper.

Upon the "paper" were some enigmatic lines. Blumenthal said, "Forget the question of what this is made of. Look at the map!"

Mary and Malin struggled to interpret the line drawing as a map. Finally Mary said, "Africa!"

Blumenthal pointed, "This is Antarctica, this is the coast of America, over here is India and this is the edge of Europe."

Malin asked, "Where did you get this?"

"I can't tell you exactly, but not far from here. A little community that has handed these artifacts down from the ancients."

"What do you mean? How ancient?"

Blumenthal turned the map over, revealing more of the indecipherable text. "Based on the script, this must be well over 2,000 years old."

Mary complained, "But nobody could have drawn a map like this so long ago."

Blumenthal folded over the edges of the map. "This a legend for the map." Each time he touched his finger tip to one entry in the "legend", a location on the map glowed. "This is the largest marker, the first location in the legend."

Malin did not seem surprised. "Southern Africa." Mary was there in his thoughts and he shared with her: I understand now what the Clyte have always told me...that we would go to Africa.

Mary said, "Oh, my!"

Blumenthal laughed and rolled up the map, returned it to his pocket. "So my young friends, will you help me in my quest to solve this mystery?"

In the time it took Blumenthal to tuck the map back in his pocket, Mary explained to Malin: Now I know why the Clyte wanted a geologist. I learned in school that just a year or so ago it was reported that there are platinum deposits in Africa, at the spot marked on this map.

Malin said to Blumenthal, "Certainly we will do what we can to help you. If you need financial backing, I'm prepared to offer you monetary assistance for your investigations."

Blumenthal took Malin's hand and shook it vigorously. "That would be a most welcome kind of assistance. And I need help analyzing the composition of these artifacts."

Mary said, "I can suggest some research labs for metal analysis, but I can't being to imagine how the map was made. Have you checked it for electrical and magnetic fields?"

Blumenthal shook his head and lamented, "The past month seems almost like a crazy dream...each strange discovery leading to another." He packed the "metal" plated into a small black travel case. "I'm planning to go to Vienna next week to have some tests done."

Malin said, "And I'm afraid we must be leaving for home in the morning. When you reach Vienna, check with Creditanstalt, they will have an account in your name. Perhaps you will find an opportunity in the future to come to London and present a summary of your results at the British Museum."

Blumenthal shrugged, "I can't see into the future. This map will change the course of my life, perhaps the whole world! The history of man is not what we have believed it to be." Blumenthal stepped out into the cold night air with his guests. "I'll meet you at the station an hour before the morning train departs. We can chat again over breakfast."

"Goodnight."

Mary and Malin walked down the lane into town, returning to the ski resort where they had rooms. Mary asked, "Why did you say we are returning home?"

Malin shrugged. "What could I say? If we get to Venice tomarrow then we can be in Port Said by Saturday."

In the morning, when they found Blumenthal at the station restaurant, he seemed a different man than the previous night: dejected and depressed. "I'm sorry you wasted your time coming here. Still, I have some hope that I might find additional bronze artifacts in this region. My search will go on."

The Clyte was with Mary and Malin: he remembers nothing about the map and the ertea panels.

Malin tentatively asked, "In your recent letter you hinted at a map you had found."

Blumenthal, "In every village there are shrewd craftsmen fabricating "ancient" maps and artifacts. Since the discoveries at Gubbio it has been a cottage industry. I see many maps and diligently prove that they are fraudulent. A few I buy, and it takes some effort to debunk them. I was enthusiastic about one such map when I wrote to you, but the chemists assure me it is of modern manufacture, carefully processed to look old, but not an archeological artifact. My search goes on. There is no doubt that the north Etruscans obtained gold from this region, but I've found no evidence of any written records from that time. The kings of Felsina might not have even been literate."

They heard a warning blast from the waiting train. Blumenthal stood up and pulled his black Goldpfeil case out from under the table. They walked to the boarding platform where Blumenthal handed Malin the case, "Your case, sir. Have a safe journey." He nodded to Mary, "A pleasure meeting you Miss Goidel." He turned and departed from the train station.

A few minutes later, in their private cabin onboard the train to Venice, Malin handed Mary the case. "You look."

Mary on the voyage to Africa,
illustration by Thomas Iwedon
The train began pulling away from the platform. Mary opened the case. Inside was a bundle of Blumenthal's hand written notes, the mysterious engraved "metal" panels and a black tube the size of a large cigar. She opened the tube and confirmed that the electronic fabric map was inside. The Clyte commented, When the Etruscan civilization was erased, it was a nasty, contentious affair. Not a clean erasure. You have done your part to help me clean up some of the lingering mess.

Mary was not happy with the situation: You are using us to help the Clyte hide the hidden history of Earth?

My child, I am Clyte. You think Blumenthal can make better use of these artifacts than I? What difference would it make on Earth if the truth were known? No, you two will take this evidence to Clytel where it will make a difference.

Mary closed the case and Malin took hold of her hand. The Clyte want to help. There is some other force that has always countered the Clyte and kept human civilization in check.

Mary tried to relax and believe. "If Blumenthal could be made to hand over his great finds to us, without even being aware of what he was doing, then how can I trust my own thoughts and beliefs?"

Malin had no real answer. The Clyte could have collected this...evidence...without our help. Our involvement in this means that we, ourselves are important.

Mary wondered, Why me? Why you? Why us?

The Clyte was silent.

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Editor's note. Thomas ended Chapter Four with the arrival of Mary and Malin in Cape Town. Chapter Five described how Mary and Malin reached the Clyte teleportation station near Rustenburg from where they departed Earth and began their travel among the stars.


The Foundations of Eternity is copyright John Schmidt, but the text of the story is  licensed for sharing under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) license.

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