Veritas: Pandora's Box
Disclaimer: Veritas: The Quest belongs to Touchstone and the ABC Corporation
Warnings: Series spoilers for those who haven't seen all the episodes.
Thanks: to Rosemary for her invaluable help with editing and pointing out plot inconsistencies in this story.
Pandora's box, a famous Greek legend, about a jar (not box) gifted by the gods. It contained all the evils of man. Pandora, the first woman, opened the box and let them out and was badly hurt by doing so. But the box also held the spirit of hope. Hope healed Pandora and with hope in the world mankind has a way to fight and be protected from the evils.
1 The Lycian were the inhabitants of what is now south-west turkey and not all that much is really known about them – they were supposed to have a free and peaceful system of government that was the envy of many – including the civil war plagued ancient Greeks.
2 The quote "Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man." is credited to Friedrich Nietzsche - it seemed to fit what I needed so I used it on the box.
3 Kukulcán is the Mayan name for the Toltec Quetzalcoatl – the wise and favoured of the gods. Kukulcán has a cult dedicated to him still in existence.
Particles of dust glittered in the powerful beams of their flashlights, giving the deep cavern a timeless, mythical feeling. Juliet sighed in relief and stretched, grateful to be able to stand up straight again. Climbing down the long shaft, and then crawling through the difficult twisting rock tunnel to get here had been exhausting; even Dr. Zond was breathing a little harder from the exertion. A double ring of tall, cylindrical sandstone pillars supported the central dome of the high ceiling. Most of the ancient Lycian1 designs carved into the surface of the pillars had been ravaged by time, but enough remained to show the amount of effort and care that had gone into the excavation and construction of the chamber.
It wasn't yet summer in Turkey, but the sun was powerful enough to scorch unprotected skin; despite her precautions, Juliet could feel the tingle of sunburn across her nose and cheeks from the days spent hiking over the dry, rocky landscape to find the entrance to the caverns. Time out of the sun was a welcome change and the cool moisture in the air soothed her discomfort.
Juliet shone her flashlight toward Calvin to give him enough light to work with as the young archaeologist knelt on the pock-marked rock floor setting up the equipment he pulled from the bag Vincent had handed him. After he turned on a portable lantern creating a bright pool of light around his work area, Calvin nodded his thanks to her and Juliet joined Dr. Zond, Vincent and Nikko as they spread out through the cavern to check the area. While she began her survey Juliet listened to Calvin checking in with Maggie who was back at the Veritas headquarters.
"Maggie, Yeah, I can hear you. Reception is a little distorted, probably too much rock between us and the boost transmitter on the surface, but I can hear you. We're in the cavern. It's just as your research described, and the site looks untouched so with a little luck the artefact, whatever it is, is still here… No problem, Maggie, we'll be careful, and find or no find we'll send you what we have before the satellite is out of range."
Calvin finished his call to New York and continued his task of setting up the computers and the other lightweight but high-tech analysis gear they'd brought down with them.
Juliet played the light across the curved wall in front of her. Several yards away Nikko did the same thing, slowing moving towards her.
Juliet was worried. Something was wrong with Nikko but when she tried to get him to talk about it, he wouldn't open up. Dr. Zond had also tried, but from the increased level of tension between father and son, it was obvious the discussion hadn't gone well. Even Vincent, who seemed to have made a strong connection with Nikko, had gotten nowhere. At first Juliet hadn't been too worried; Nikko was smart, but he was still a teenager, and therefore subject to all the drama and emotional turmoil that came with being that age. But as days had turned into weeks and Nikko's behaviour had deteriorated, she'd realized the problem was more serious than she'd first thought.
Juliet watched Nikko break off his general scan of the wall to focus the beam on one section, his head to the side in the pose that, as his teacher, she had come to recognise as an attitude of deep thought.
"Find something, Nikko?" she asked.
For a moment there was no reply, and then he nodded. "Yeah… maybe. Look."
Juliet moved to stand next to the teenager and focused her flashlight on the same place as his. It took her a few moments to see it, it wasn't the symbols and writing that she was expecting, but a faint discolouration on the rock surface that formed a pattern… it looked almost like a picture.
"See it?" Nikko asked.
Juliet nodded. "Dr. Zond, Nikko's found something here," she called out.
The other Veritas team members quickly joined them, and the additional illumination from their flashlights brought the design into clear view. Juliet admired the intricate pattern, from where she stood, the image looked to be an eagle in flight. Looking closer at the design she could see it was formed entirely from tiny carved indents in the rock. It must have taken the artisan who built it a great deal of time, care and patience to produce the effect, and it humbled her to realize that she and the Veritas team were the first people to see the work in more than two thousand years.
"This is it. This is the key, good work, Nikko," Solomon said. Nikko did nothing to acknowledge the praise, ignoring his father's comment as though he had not heard it at all. The young woman could see the flash of disappointment on Dr. Zond's face, but the older man said nothing.
"Now all we need to do is find the lock," Vincent added.
"It would help if we knew what these dots were meant to represent," Solomon said thinking aloud.
One point in the design was highlighted from the rest by being raised instead of recessed like all the others. Solomon reached out and pressed on the raised stone. Nothing happened.
"Well, I didn't think it would be that easy," he remarked dryly.
"It has a purpose, we just need to figure out what," Vincent said.
For a minute no one in the team spoke, each person trying to see a meaning in the pattern, or significance to the raised section.
Calvin shook his hand at the wall excitedly. "That's it, I've got it! They're holes… like on the floor. Look at the floor it's covered with shallow holes; if this wall is the key, then the floor could be the lock."
Solomon glanced down at the rock floor, shining his flashlight over a part of it and noticing the pock-marked holes. He clasped Calvin's shoulder in a friendly grip. "I think you're right."
Calvin was excited with the possibility of discovery, and it showed in his face as he nodded and grinned at the older archaeologist. "And all we have to do is match the pattern on the wall to the same pattern on the wall, find the hole that corresponds to the raised one and we'll have the answer," he said.
Dr. Zond looked around the dark chamber. "We need to get some lights set up in here."
"We've got spare lanterns in the pack," Calvin said heading toward the equipment.
Juliet glanced over at Nikko, even in the low light she could see the boy's face was twisted in a mixture of resentment and hurt. He's envious of Calvin and his father, Juliet realised. It wasn't the first time Nikko had been jealous of Calvin, but Juliet had thought the teenager had at last gotten passed that; it seemed she had been wrong. Nikko's shoulders seemed to slump a little as he followed the others back into the centre of the chamber.
The kid is crazy, Juliet thought. Calvin shared Nikko's father's work, but everyone knew that the boy owned Solomon Zond's heart. Everyone except Nikko it appeared.