Reynolds entered the new chamber behind Rank Matthews, accompanied by Bob Sinclair, Dan Lightfoot, Jill Hodge and Stephanie Mitchell. Two of Matthews crew were finishing up the cleanup of the mud on the floor of the chamber as they came in.
The small pyramid, which measured roughly 20 feet on each of its three sides and 9 feet high, was completely exposed. Because of its much smaller size relative to the main pyramid and its relatively close proximity, some of the tunnel crew had started calling it "the Outhouse," and the name had stuck.
The ground level around it had been cleared to a space of about six feet on all sides, and the ceiling of the chamber, which was roughly dome-shaped, cleared the top of the truncated pyramid by about four feet. Work lights illuminated the pyramid from all three sides, and a six-inch duct had been run in through the tunnel to pump cold air in to prevent the ice walls and ceiling from melting.
Like the main pyramid, this smaller structure also had writing on its wall, at the same height off the ground as the larger one, and again in a band about two feet tall. Jill Hodge immediately set about photographing the writing, using a hand-held camera. Later shed return with her tripod and lights to do a more thorough job.
Reynolds turned to Matthews. "Whats up top?" he asked.
"Its not flat," Matthews replied. "Its got a slight peak to it, tapering up from each of the three sides about two feet above the top of the walls. But its close enough to level that you could walk on it."
Reynolds walked along the wall facing the entrance from the tunnel, playing a flashlight on the surface. "Any evidence of an opening?" he asked, just as he noticed the gap in the band of writing. Looking closely, he saw that there was a seam running up the wall.
"I think youve found the answer yourself," said Matthews.
Reynolds traced the seam a fine crack, really to the floor, and then back up and down again. It was in the shape of a fat triangle with curved sides, with the sides loosely echoing the angle of the walls to the left and right, ending in a point perhaps eight feet off the ground.
"Its a doorway!" Reynolds exclaimed.
"Yeah, thats what we thought, too," said Matthews. "But so far we havent found a keyhole, much less a knob."
Reynolds scanned the triangular area with the light, looking for any sign of a button or opening or control. The writing on the walls to either side stopped at the "door," if indeed thats what it was, and the door itself was smooth, save for the fine granularity found on all surfaces of the Town. He took his pick from his belt and tapped the door. Then he tapped the wall next to the door. If there was any difference in the sound, he couldnt detect it.
Just looking at the door, it was hard to imagine how it might open. The crack between its sides and the walls wasnt wide enough to be able to insert the blade of a pen knife, and there was no sign of hinges. The floor in front of the door showed no evidence of tracks or scrapes, so it would appear that it had to move into the pyramid in order to open.
"What would it take to drill through this," he asked, turning to Matthews.
"Hell, we have no idea how thick it is."
"Still," Reynolds replied, turning back to the pyramid, "how would you tackle the job?"
"Well, wed bring in an oversized freestanding drill press and use a cylindrical diamond blade blades, more likely to drill in at a perpendicular to the face of the wall. With what we have, we could put a six-inch hole in the door, assuming that its not more than about a foot thick."
"OK," said Reynolds, "I want to hold that open as a possibility. First, lets see if we can get this thing to open on its own."
"Hal," said Sinclair, "if that is a door, and if it ever opened on its own, it took some kind of power to open it. Its gotta be one heavy sucker. And whatever power source was used to open it has to be long dead."
Reynolds looked at him, but said nothing.
"I mean, even a nuclear power plant would be dead after tens of millions of years."
Reynolds considered this for a few moments. Sinclair was probably right, but he saw no need to rush.
The ancient Incas, he thought, had built incredibly massive structures with tolerances between their building blocks every bit as tight as these, and had moved massive blocks over long distances using techniques that no anthropologist or archaeologist has ever discovered. If relatively primitive humans could do that more than 1,000 years ago, what might advanced beings from somewhere else be able to accomplish?
"Bob, for all we know, nuclear power was something these people used for their childrens toys. We can drill into this thing any time we want, but Id like to take some time to see what we can discover before we apply a brute force approach.
Stephanie Mitchell, whod been walking along the side of the pyramid examining the writing, couldnt stop from turning and looking at Reynolds with a certain amount of admiration. Here was a guy who was a geologist, whose profession at times entailed blowing up natural formations to see what they were made of, and his first instincts were more like those of an archaeologist. Shed always rather admired Reynolds, but this reaction drove his stock up a couple of points in her eyes.
Reynolds decided to try to apply logic to the situation. So... Lets say youre a bug-eyed monster from an advanced civilization, and youve come to Earth for who knows what purpose, and youve built an outpost. Your buildings have doors. You need to get in and out through these doors. Here on Earth make that, in human cultures, we use doors too. We put knobs and keyholes in them so that we can open them and close them, and lock and unlock them. How complicated can a door get, he wondered.
Knob, key. These seem pretty universal.
"Not if youre talking about, say, an elevator door," said Lightfoot. Reynolds realized with a slight start that hed been unconsciously muttering to himself out loud.
"Thats right," he replied, "an elevator door opens with a button next to it."
"Or how about a garage door," Sinclair piped in. "It opens with a remote control. These folks could have had clickers around their necks, or on their belts, or whatever."
"Yeah, but the problem with remotes is that they can get lost. A garage door has to open with a remote in order to make any sense, and you can clip the remote to your sun visor, but a door in a building should have a way in permanently attached." Reynolds started examining the writing directly to the sides of the door, and saw there was something he hadnt noticed before.
To either side, the band of writing, again nine characters high, stopped abruptly. In between the ends of the band and the sides of the door were symbols that appeared to stand alone. At each side, there were nine characters arranged in a square shape, with three on each of three rows.
"Steph," he called out to Mitchell, who had turned the corner to his left. "Yeah," came her reply.
"Would you come look at this?"
Mitchell came back around the corner and joined him at the left side of the door.
"Youve spent a fair amount of time studying the symbols. Do these match what weve seen so far?"
"Let me check," she answered. From a pocket of her parka she pulled out a MessagePad and called up the database of symbols, scanning through them as they were displayed six at a time on the small screen.
"Well, Im not sure about this one," she said, indicating one in the second row, "but the rest dont appear to match any of the other characters weve seen.
They had now uncovered and analyzed at total of 23,886 characters, all of which were part of the basic set of 81 characters. Apparently, theyd just discovered an additional nine characters.
"What does this remind you of?" he asked.
"Um..." she thought for a moment, before suddenly brightening. She nodded. "How about a numeric keypad?"
"Just what I was thinking," said Reynolds.
Reynolds moved to the right side of the door, where there was another set of nine symbols. Comparing the two, he found that they consisted of all but two of the characters at the left, and with two of the characters repeated. He also noticed a subtle difference from the ones to the left of the door.
"Does anybody have a magnifying glass?" he hollered. "Ive got a loop," Jill Hodge yelled from the other side. Hodge took the shot shed been framing, and then grabbed her loop from her camera bag and came around to where Reynolds and now the rest as well were standing.
Taking care not to let his chin touch the surface, Reynolds leaned forward until he was lying against the pyramid wall. He put the loop on the wall at the edge of one of the left side symbols, and examined it through the lens. At the edges of the characters there was a very fine gap between them and the wall itself.
"These are buttons!" he half-whispered, half-shouted.
He scrambled over to the right side, and repeated his examination of the characters there. No gaps. These were just like all the other samples of the writing theyd found.
"My god, those are buttons on the left side! Its a combination lock!"
"Jeez, do you suppose these characters on the right might be the combination?" Sinclair wondered.
"Why install a combination lock, and then plaster the combination right next to it?" asked Matthews. "What would be the point of that?"
"Itd make perfect sense if you wanted to keep out people or creatures, more to the point who couldnt read," said Mitchell.
"Right," said Reynolds. "Youre building a city in what was probably the middle of a jungle. There are lots of big, hungry but incredibly dumb critters all around you. You want to keep them out, but let your own kind in."
"So why not use a universal key code?" asked Sinclair. "Why have a different combination for different buildings?"
"I dont know, but Id be willing to bet that thats what weve got here."
"So why not try it?" asked Matthews.
"Right, like its just going to open up," said Sinclair.
"You never know till you try."
"Ranks right," said Reynolds, "although you probably are too, Bob. I mean, weve got nothing to lose."
Lightfoot had remained silent so far, but it was now his turn to enter the discussion.
"Im all for seeing what happens, but on the slim chance that the door would open, we need to take some serious precautions here."
Reynolds stepped back. He hated to admit it, but Lightfoot was right. Theyd agreed on full Level 3 containment before opening any of the pyramids.
"Dans right," he said. "We need to establish our protocol. OK. Id like to call a meeting of the science team along with you, Dan, and the guy from CDC." Lightfoot nodded.
"Rank, were gonna have to open up some more work space in front of the door for the airlock."
"Ill get my guys on it right now."
"OK, folks, lets go back uptown."
The group made their way back through the tunnel. The main chamber now measured nearly 80 feet along the side of Town Hall by from 40 feet at its widest down to less than ten feet at the far end. The shaft to the ice surface had been enlarged, and there was now a construction-style elevator that could carry up to six people at a time. The cavern was crowded with equipment, storage crates and even a miniature forklift and two front loaders, all electric. The team now included 18 people from an assortment of schools and government organizations, with even more expected.
As the elevator rose, carrying Reynolds and the others, he looked at all the equipment and people and activity and found himself thinking, "Damn! All we did was take some simple echo soundings..."