The Story of the Whos as of 3 31 15.pdf
Peter vaulted over the rail of the ship, the buzz of tinnitus still fresh in his ears. He landed,
loosening his knees so that he rolled among the pine needles, perfectly and painlessly, before springing
back to his feet.
A ramp let down from the side of the ship, a few feet down, and the other crewmen exited the
sloop in single-file, led by the ship's captain, Nelc. He had twenty years, several inches, and about fifty
pounds on Peter.
“That's your fifth violation of landing protocol this month, Peter,” he chided, “If you keep this
up, you can be dismissed, you know.”
“Yes, sir,” Peter said, attempting to look reproachful.
“Right,” said Nelc, then turned to the other crew, “Galwin, get the lanterns from the storage
room. Bring five.”
“What should I do, sir?” Peter asked, trying to inject some helpfulness into his voice. He hated
“landing protocol” and “standard procedure”; he knew how to keep himself safe, and he didn't need any
rules telling him otherwise. But it helped to stay on the captain's good side; getting kicked out of the
Expeditionary Battalion would mean returning to Nalio to work, and would look bad besides.
“Peter, you and Galwin will be carrying lanterns. Try not to do anything particularly foolish with
them.” Nelc's lips tightened in what Peter knew to be the closest he came to a grin.
As they approached the cave, Peter realized that the stones marking the entrance were larger than
he'd thought; they were easily fifteen meters long, and five thick. He'd never seen a whole piece of stone
longer than maybe three meters. By the time they had reached the cave's entrance, the stones seemed
“What's this?” said a girl whose name Peter did not know, pointing to what appeared to be
markings on the inside of the stones. Nelc approached her, bending to look at what appeared to Peter to
be a series of symbols. He squinted at them, then reached into his pocket and extracted a small pair of
thin-rimmed glasses. As he slipped them over his eyes, he knelt next to the stones, leaning in close.
Galwin suddenly started forward, motioning as if to push Nelc; but withdrew at the last second, falling
back among the group to laugh with his friends. Peter glared at him.
“Galwin.” Nelc's voice was demanding, and Galwin straightened instantly. Peter smirked,
thinking he'd finally gotten his comeuppance.
“Photograph these markings for study back in Nalio. I want closeups of each set, and then a
couple shots from further back.”
“The rest of you, with me.”
They followed Nelc as he straightened up, leaving Galwin and his friends behind. The air cooled
rapidly as they moved down the slope, deeper into the cave. Peter could see the faint outlines of what
had to be stalagmites in the darkness.
“Flashlights,” said Nelc. Around him, a dozen or so lights clicked on at once, illuminating the
cave with little spots of light. The walls were covered in slashes; after a few seconds of looking at them
Peter realized they were some form of writing.
“Someone go tell Galwin he's got a lot more work to do,” said Nelc bemusedly. There was a bit
of light laughter, but as Peter glanced around, he saw looks of uncertainty on many of the faces. He
understood their feelings but did not share them. Always, he had felt that there had to be something
beyond the Wall, besides monstrous creatures and wasteland. Here was some sort of solid proof, at last!
There was someone else. All at once, the months with the Expeditionary Battalion felt fulfilled.
The cavern split off in several directions. Nelc looked around for a moment, before turning to
face them again.
“Thale, Jeyin, Abby,” Nelc commanded, “Pick four others and go down one of these tunnels. Be