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The Translation - Part 1

In the morning, the archeological dig site bustled with the sudden influx of archeologists and locals eager to start working on the site. By afternoon, the buzz and chatter died down in favour of getting work done and conserving energy under the hot midday sun. In the evenings, only the truly dedicated stayed out, braving the bugs and mosquitoes.

By nighttime, everyone retired to their tents, resting up for another day of unearthing relics and attempting to translate the phrases on the shards of pottery and stone tablets. One such translator, Lara Hunt, usually started out at first light, and ended when the lights around the tents were switched on. Her friend and colleague April Scott worked in a similar way, although she had to do the arduous task of uncovering new artefacts under the sweltering heat.

One night, Lara – who had been putting away her notes on the text they discovered – had a sudden epiphany. The script of the ancient Roman civilisation they were uncovering was not Latin, Greek or any other language, it was wholly unique. This had made it much harder to translate, but she had figured out some common-looking letters between Greek and this new language.

The epiphany she had had was related to this script itself. Her notes stated that the most common symbol was Δ. Having assumed it to be the same as its Greek counterpart, she marked it down as the letter “d”. However, if her hunch was correct and it was a modified version of the letter “A”, she might have cracked a problem the translators’ team had been struggling over for weeks.

Other letters as well – what if, in taking them to be inspired by Greek, they made a mistake? Perhaps this language originated from Latin. Lara hopped out of her tent with her notes in hand,

stumbling blindly towards the section of the dig site where the translators did their work. Pottery shards were strewn around the table haphazardly.

Another figure was nearby too, rearranging some papers and setting a piece of clay on the table. It was April, about to finish up for the night. She had discovered this piece that day. She was ready to leave, but when she saw the hurried figure of Lara, her best friend, she stopped.

“What are you doing?”

“I realised something about the translations, I want to see if I was right. Quick, give me the clay tablet. I might be able to translate some of it.”

April offered the tablet to Lara, watching as Lara leaned forward, poring over the tablet and her documents. Suddenly, she let out a cry. On the blank portion of her papers, Lara scribbled several symbols. April thought they looked like Greek letters. Then Lara wrote the modern alphabet next to some of them as well.

Δ - A (delta), η - N (eta), ω - W (omega), Σ - E (sigma), τ - T (tau), ρ - P (rho), Υ - Y (epsilon), H - H.

Then, pulling the clay piece closer to her, Lara compared the writing on it and what she had written. She copied down a number of dashes corresponding to the number of letters in each word, filling in some of the blanks with what she had written down herself. Several words instantly revealed themselves, but some remained confusing mashes of vowels or consonants, or a mix of both.

T_E T_EA_U_E __ H___EN HE_E.

The treasure is hidden here.

April, who had pulled up a chair and sat to watch Lara, gasped. This was a big discovery – not just the translation, but what it meant. Eagerly, Lara and April pored over the rest of the translation, not paying attention to their surroundings in favour of the text they were translated. At a short distance, the light outside a tent winked out into the darkness.

In some time, the whole clay tablet was translated. It contained the instructions to find a treasure. It did not mention what the treasure was. When they were done with the translation, they stood, silently deciding that even though their supervisor was likely asleep, this was a big enough discovery to wake him up for.

Outside the translators’ area, the world looked much darker, cloaked with the night sky, the moon glowing with the reflection of light. Stars winked overhead, shimmering as though they were celebrating Lara and April’s achievement. They rushed into their supervisor’s tent, bursting with excitement. Suddenly, they stopped short.

On the floor was their supervisor, on their front. His room was messed around, covered with scraps of paper and a disordered bundle of papers on his desk. He lay there, unconscious. Not asleep, as he should have been. April squatted down to look at the scraps of paper on the floor.

“Lara! These – these are photos of the tablet we translated, and some translations in the margins! This was a targeted attack, and for a reason. I think someone else figured it out too, and wants this treasure. Desperately.” She glanced down at him. “Call emergency services. We should keep it private that we found the translation.”

Unbeknownst to the two of them as they anxiously stepped out, a hidden camera blinked in the room, sending a live feed into a darkened tent and to the phone of a person creeping out of the boundaries of the dig site…



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