"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I yelled as I lost my footing and tumbled down the dune of sand. I rolled down ten feet through the soft, hot sand when I suddenly saw the dune give way and I closed my eyes right before landing face-first on a floor of sand. I rolled myself over, spitting sand out of my mouth as I looked up through the hole I had come through, rays of light shining through and casting a small glow on the ground around me. My partner, Ava, peeked her head through the hole and yelled down, "Hey you alright?"
"No, I've only broken all of my bones falling down that hole you're looking through!" I yelled back, sand crunching in my mouth. I spat it out while Ava laughed at me from above.
"Seriously, though, you want some help?" She yelled down at me.
I got up, dusting myself off, "Give me a minute, and let me check things out." I pulled my pack off my shoulders, making sure I still had everything. There was a length of rope and some anchors, some food and water, the flashlight on my belt, some extra batteries for the light, and a bandanna and some sunglasses, nothing seemed to be broken by the fall, so I closed my pack and re-shouldered it. I turned my gaze to the ground around me. The ground was all a thin layer of sand. I stepped forwards, looking around. I sighed, I kicked my foot forwards, launching sand in a small cloud through the air. I looked down, seeing if there was anything underneath the sand that I had missed. I felt a crunch underneath my boot, I knelt down and brushed sand away. I examined the floor. The floor was tile and over the years had apparently accumulated sand which had covered the entire floor. I got back up on my feet and looked at the darkness in front of me. The only light came from the hole, so not much was left to part the darkness. There were collapsed metal beams, and roof supports hanging off the wall and stretching onto the floor. I pulled a light out of my belt and light was cast onto the area in front of me. There was a short barrier along to the left covered in dust. I turned around, clicking my light off in the process.
"Ava, you're good to come down, I think it's safe down here. Here!" I tossed my rope up at her. She caught it and pulled an anchor out of her pack. She pushed a button on the grip and it dug itself into the sand and secured itself. She quickly started rappelling down. Before I knew it, she had already reached the ground, a cloud of dust behind her. She un-harnessed herself and grabbed the light off of her belt.
"Okay, let's do this," I said as I flicked my light on.
"Let's," she said. She flicked her light on and we both stepped into the new area, pitch black except for the light cast from her flashlight.
We made our way forward and stepped towards the steel beams. There were two of them, one on each side, leaning diagonally towards the center of the hall.
"Careful of these, you don't wanna get snagged," I said as I carefully maneuvered around the beams.
"I've been doing this longer than you! You don't have to tell me" she said, half-joking.
"No, we started the same time, remember?" I turned my head towards her. "Besides, you've always been clumsier than me, remember that one time?"
"Yeah I do, now let's not argue, 'cause there could be a lot here, and I don't want to cause any kind of disturbance," she calmed her tone down.
"Yeah, yeah of course." I calmed down too.
We stepped forward the dusty floor crunching as we walked over it along the tiled pathway. We continued along the pathway and noticed some small archways leading into other, smaller rooms. There was a large open area that we could see over the small barrier. We continued forwards, and Ava turned to me.
"Hey, I'm going to go into those other rooms, I have a feeling there'll be something interesting."
"Yeah, alright, just radio if you see anything," I said.
"Will do, rendezvous back in this hallway when you're done over there," she pointed in the direction I was going.
"Yeah, see you," I said and continued in the direction we were going. I walked until I reached the end of the barrier.
Whoa!" I thought out loud. The floor that I was walking on, suddenly stopped in front of me. There was a pit that went as far as I could see into the abyss. It wasn't very wide, so I looked down and hopped over it, no big deal.
I continued on the other side of the pit and followed the rest of the barrier around. I reached a hole in it, with primitive motorized staircases going down into an atrium.
I walked through the gap and went down the stairs. There was yellow tape at the end saying "out of order." I stepped over the sign and could see small tables and chairs lined up all the way across the atrium. I walked across the tile, the sand crunching under my feet. There were small areas sticking out of the walls, with ancient food-cooking technology. I walked over to the left and pulled open the door. There were ancient food-warming technology and money-keeping machines.
There's nothing even here. I thought as I walked back to the door. Suddenly my radio beeped.
"Hey, where are you at, I think there' something here." Ava's voice suddenly came over the radio.
I ran back to the stairs and climbed up them. I ran to the pit and hopped over it again. I continued my jog until I got back to the spot Ava was in. I combed through metal racks once used to hold clothing, now they lied empty, nothing left on their arms.
I made my way to the back where I assumed Ava was.
"Hey, you coming or what?" She asked; I could hear her voice further ahead.
"Yeah, I'm right behind you, relax." I finished combing through the clothing racks. "Now, what is it you wanted to show me?"
"Here, look at this!" She opened up a large blue box, worn away over the hundreds of years it had been down here. She pulled out a stack of ancient media storage, M-Discs.
"Look!" she exclaimed, "They're still around! Scientists thought they were destroyed hundreds of years ago! We finally have a vision of the technology back in the 2,000's!"
"Wow, I never thought we'd find anything like this, we have to get this back to the labs, so we can put it in the archives! This is one of the greatest finds science has found, we have to get this out of here!" She pulled off her pack and slid the discs in, careful not to damage them with the rest of her contents.
We both hurried back through the racks and to the hall. We quickly ran under the beams and back to the hole where I first fell through. I pulled my pack off and grabbed my rope and rappelling gear. I put my pack back on, secured my harness and threw my anchor to the top of the hole, it beeped and dug itself into the sand, securing me. I looked over at Ava, she had done the same. I nodded at her. We both started climbing upwards. I made grooves in the wall as my boots dug in to keep me from falling. I eventually reached the top and pulled myself up. I pulled off my gear right as Ava reached the top.
"Geez, try-hard much?" She said, noticing how I was already taking off my gear.
"Maybe don't take so long then?" I chuckled and pulled her up.
"Here, I'll start the car." I ran over to our X-36C Marin™.
The X-36C Marin™ was a brand-new, state-of-the-art hover vehicle, specifically designed for traversing the harsh desert climates of the planet once known as Earth. The vehicle had a small chassis made of a titanium, with enough space for two seats in the front, three in the back, and a trunk large enough to carry the supplies of up to seven people. It had four small circular rotors in each one of the four corners, which were powered on hydrogen, and had enough force to lift the vehicle up-to ten meters above the surface for use in high-traversal situations.
I walked over to the right side and the door on the side scanned my face as I went up to it. There was a small click, and the door opened. I threw my pack towards the back seats and sat down as the door closed. I waved my hand, and the engine started, and a holographic restraint harness slid across my chest. Ava walked up to her door and it opened for her. She set her pack gently on the back and sat down.
"Wow, it's beautiful outside," she said, we were leaving the site just as the sunset started. The sun cast an orange glow as far as we could see.
"Yeah, let's hope it lasts because we have a long way to go to get back to the pod," I said, not ready for the trip ahead.
"No kidding, why did we go this far south anyways?" she questioned.
"Well, nobody had gone this far, we wanted to finally discover something." I started the engine, set the autopilot and continued. "The expedition teams sent by Malakis have been out here for weeks and haven't found anything." I reclined my chair as the car took us to the pod.
"Yeah, if we can find something like this, it shows that they should be able to, after all, they were sent out here with better tech than we were!" She laughed softly.
"Ah, they're just incompetent."
"Anyone trained by him would be," she joked. I laid back in my seat and dozed off.
"Hey wake up, we're here." Ava tapped my head.
"What, yeah, I'm up," I said as I sat up. I waved at the door and stepped outside.
We had reached the Pod while I was asleep. It was nothing special, just a white pod in the middle of the desert. The Pod was a three-story dome-shaped tent-like building, which was certainly bigger on the inside than it seemed. The Pod was a tavern that doubled as HQ for those shipped down here. There was a man, slurring his speech, getting shoved out of the bar. He fell down right in front of us and I stepped over him. These things happened all the time.
"Alright, Ava, you got the stuff?" I said over my shoulder as we walked in through the open door.
"Yeah, right in my pack, we've got to see that Customs guy, though."
"He's a pain, that one," I whispered just loud enough for her to hear.
We stepped onto the metal floor, the inside was laid out quite simply. There was a bar on the left and some tables and chairs in the center. There was a staircase leading in the back, which lead up to the rooms. There was a desk at the far end of the room with a snooty looking man with his chin raised his and his most dapper suit on, scanning the crowd for anyone who might want to get back home. I started towards him.
He saw us immediately and said with a hint of sarcasm "Ah, you two, welcome back, I assume you'll be showing me another one of your incredible finds." He smiled at us, a little too politely.
"Yup, it's us again!" I said, a smile all the way across my face.
"Yeah, and this time we have something actually incredible," Ava said, also exaggerating.
"Show me," He demanded, caution in his eyes.
"Alright!" Ava unshouldered her pack and opened the pocket with the discs. I half-expected them to be completely shattered, but thankfully they were still intact.
"These, are M-Discs, they contain knowledge from the 21st Century, that's ten centuries ago," she emphasized.
"Alright, you can board the next shuttle back, but these better have useful information," he said, his attitude showing through. "The shuttle arrives tomorrow morning at 10:00 ‘clock sharp.
"Alright, I'll get the rooms," I said and turned towards the bar
"Alright then, I'll just chill here," Ava said and sat down at a table.
I walked up to the bar and raised my hand towards the bartender, he came over.
"What can I get for you today?" He leaned against the bar and smiled.
"Two rooms would be nice." I smiled.
"Yeah, I can do that, standard or deluxe?"
Well, we are only going to stay one night… I checked my wallet, I had enough cash.
"Make ‘em deluxe,"
"That'll be $340," He said, still beaming. I pulled out a pile of bills.
"Now, I'll have to ask you to look into this machine," He moved to the side, there was a blue dot on the wall, it flashed brightly for a second. "There we are, now your room is room 304, and if you could call your partner, we'll get her to her room." I walked over to where Ava was sitting,
"Hey, you're needed at the desk, they have to check you in."
She looked up from her holo-screen, "Oh, ok." She got up and I walked over to the wall on my right. There was a lift to take you up and down between floors. The lift was all blue and there was a machine on the right. I scanned my eyes and the lift opened up. It immediately started towards the third floor. After a few seconds, the door opened again and I stepped out onto the floor. There were rooms to the left and right, and on my left, I saw my room, 304. There was a dot on the wall, and I looked into it. The light flashed, and my holo-door slid open. It was a fairly spacious room, there was a bed in the left corner, a desk in the right corner, and a large display window with vistas from all over Old Earth, as well as places from our world, and it even functioned as an actual window. I pulled my bag off and set it beside the bed. I sat down on the bed, then collapsed into it. I lied down for a minute and finally fell asleep.
I woke up to the sound of silence. Nothing was happening. I looked at my wrist and my holo-timepiece appeared. It was 8:45, plenty of time to get ready. I got up, showered, and changed. I picked my bag up and slid open the door. I walked over to the lift and looked towards the dot on the wall. The door opened and I stepped in. Soon enough, the doors opened back up and I stepped out onto the ground floor. There were a few people seated at the tables, and I saw Ava sipping a coffee and using her holo-device. I walked over to the bar and ordered a glass of orange juice and a cappuccino. I went over to Ava ad sat down beside her.
"Good morning, holding up alright?"
"Yeah, everything's fine, I've just been bored out of my mind waiting for this thing," she said, not looking up from her device.
"Yeah, no kidding, when does it arrive again?"
"Ten sharp, just another hour," she said. I got up and went back over to the bar and ordered some waffles and another cappuccino, mine was already empty. I picked up my waffles and sat back down with Ava. I pulled out my holo-device and fiddled around with it.
Soon enough it was 9:55, and Ava and I grabbed our bags and stood up. We both pocketed our holo-devices and walked to where the customs agent had been sitting. He was now standing by a door at the back and signaled for us to come over.
"So the shuttle arrives in five minutes, so I'll have to ask you to stand in line here, and wait patiently until it arrives."
"Um, alright," I said and pulled back out my holo-device. After a few minutes, we heard a loud noise outside and the customs official told us our shuttle was here and we could now board. The ship itself was a large blended-wing aircraft with rotors built into the wings, there was a large ramp in the rear, and we were directed onto the ramp, where we found seats, put away our packs, and sat down. Finally, we were free to go back home and stay, or so we thought.
The aircraft took off and we were quickly lifted to space, where we sat back as we were taken to our home, Mars.
Eventually, we reached the red planet and touched down at an airport near to a local research facility. We both stood up, grabbed our bags, and made our way through the line of people to the terminal. We made our way to the end of the tunnel and were inside the vast room that was the inter-worldly airport. We already knew that the closest exit was to our left. We passed by coffee shops, and sandwich huts, but eventually made our way to the exit and scanned our faces. The doors opened immediately and we were greeted by the harsh atmosphere that had an unnervingly low level of oxygen. There was a large physical traffic of people moving to and from the airport, many people were risking the trek to Earth to bring in money for their families. There was a large dome-like building at the end of the street. That building was the science lab, where we were headed.
The science lab was owned and operated by The Hetano Corporation, a large corporation specializing in archaeology from ancient times. They were full of money, after all, they were the ones who supplied the money for everyone who ventured to Earth.
We walked to the end of the street and scanned our eyes to enter the science lab. We were greeted by a handful of scientists in white lab coats. They came up to us, obviously curious as to why we were here.
"What exactly are you doing here?" the lead scientist asked, he was taller than the rest and stood in front. I thought I recognized him. Oh, it's Malakis!
"Oh, us, we're here to have you examine a find of ours, we think you might like it."
"Hey, do you recognize him?" I whispered to Ava.
"Yeah, isn't that Malakis?" Ava asked back.
"Yeah, that jerkwad must be in charge here," I whispered.
"Yeah, we'll have to watch out."
"Agreed," I said back.
"Come with me," He turned around and briskly led us towards a tall, stark white hallway with huge arches on the sides. He walked towards a large lift at the far end of the hall. It scanned his face and the door opened, we stepped in and almost immediately the lift rocketed downwards.
I felt weightless for just a second, but then the elevator stopped and the door opened back up.
"It's quite disorienting your first time through," Malakis said over his shoulder as we stepped out.
"No kidding," I said, still trying to figure out which way was up. I looked over at Ava and saw she was suffering the same thing, her hand was up to head trying to steady it, with no success.
After some time of bobbing and shaking, I was ready to continue to the laboratory. Malakis led the way down the stark hall and through a set of tall double-doors at the end of the hall. The room was large, the roof was eight stories up, and it had to be at least three hundred feet to the other wall. There was a small door off to the side and large remnants of an ancient aircraft. It had one blended wing and three engines in the rear. Malakis took us to the far end of the room,
"This is where we store relics from the past." There was another door, which led to a gigantic room neatly organized and full of ancient relics. There was an audible "whoa" from behind me as Ava entered the room. She was extremely fascinated by relics, and the sight of this must've been an amazing thing for her.
"You like what you see?" Malakis said, amused by her astoundment. "This way to the processing chamber, please. He led us down another hallway, and to a door near the end. He scanned his eyes on the wall nearby and the door slid open. Inside was a small room with an advanced computer hooked up to a large basin.
"Place your relics in the basin, and we will begin the scanning process," Malakis said, eagerly looking towards our packs as he booted up his computer. Ava nervously took off her pack and unzipped the pocket containing the M-Discs. She looked at me for approval before pulling them out. Nervous though I was, I still nodded and she pulled the drives out.
She gently set them inside the basin as Malakis looked over at us.
"Stand back, and don't stare directly at the basin,"Malakis said right as a flashing light emitted from the basin, it covered the room in a blue glow, and proceeded to scan our drives. After a moment, the light began receding and it eventually stopped altogether. I looked back over at Ava and she looked over at me. I raised my eyes at her and she laughed.
"So, doc, what'd you find?"
"Well it seems that you have found something very interesting, this is ancient technology that you have found. I'm afraid that we would like to keep this... for ourselves." Malakis said, lowering his voice.
"Hey, dude, I really don't think you can do that without at least giving us credit and some cash," Ava said, obviously nervous.
"Oh, that can be arranged, but we can't have this information getting out," he said maniacally and snapped his fingers. Suddenly six armed guards burst into the room and aimed their weapons at us.
"Come with us," Malakis said. We put our hands up and the guards herded us towards the other door. He scanned his eyes on the wall and the door slid open. I felt a shove and fell inwards. The door slid shut and we were trapped inside. The room was very small, about seven feet from any one wall to the other across from it, it had two separate cots against the wall and a toilet against one wall.
"Come here," I said to Ava.
"What do you need?" she asked.
"They probably have this room bugged, so don't say anything about escaping above a whisper."
"Oh," she mouthed, her eyes widening.
"Do you have paper and something in your pack?" I mouthed.
"What?" she mouthed back. I shook my hand and signaled to see her pack. She handed it over to me and I unzipped the largest pocket. I pulled out a digital tablet and pen and set it to a blank page.
"There, now we can speak without them hearing us," I wrote and showed her. "Now, we have to figure out a way to escape and get those discs back, any ideas?"
She signaled for the tablet, "I think we should wait until night, to see if anybody is here for when we do decide to break out." She showed me what she wrote and pocketed the tablet, it'd be no use to us if they took it. I nodded my head in agreement and pretended to sleep.
I managed to stay awake long enough to get a glimpse of what kind of security they left in here. Luckily, there weren't any cameras, and there was only one guard who came in here every twenty minutes or so. I stayed awake a little while longer and then nodded off.
I woke up to a loud noise, coming from the wall behind me. I got up and immediately fell to the ground. The sound was deafening, it shook me to the bone. I looked through the door and there was Malakis standing outside with a remote in his hand. He had a maniacal grin on his face and was relishing torturing us.
"YOU CAN STOP NOW!" I yelled.
"Hehehe, how do you like me now?" Malakis asked through the door. The noise stopped and Ava got up.
"What was that?" she got up from the floor.
"Some noise torture created by Malakis," I said and sat back down on the bed
"Seriously? Is he that evil that he had to torture us?" she said, exasperated.
"To be honest, I think so," I said, sighing. I signaled for her to pull out the tablet and I scooted away from the door right as a hatch slid open on the door and a tray was slid underneath. Is that supposed to be food? I thought to myself. I looked up at Ava and she mouthed exactly what I was thinking. It was a rubbery gray substance that melted any utensils I tried to pick it up with. Yeah, that can't be healthy, I thought, putting the spoon back on the tray and pushing it as far as possible against the door.
Ava pulled a tablet out of her bag and I signaled for her to hand it to me. I scanned my face and it beeped on. I quickly swiped my hand down to turn off the volume, we couldn't have it reveal itself to Malakis.
"Ok, so after hours, there is only one guard who comes in here every twenty minutes. Also, he only checks certain areas, so I know where we can hide if he comes in while we are breaking out," I wrote. She took the tablet.
"Also, that 'food' can melt through metal, and there is a metal-locking system to the right of the door," she wrote and handed me the tablet.
"Also, I'm pretty sure I saw a vent on the roof of this room, we should be able to reach it pretty easily," I wrote. I handed her the tablet. Her eyes lit up as she read it and she smiled and nodded her head.
"Great idea! I think we can get out tonight, you stay awake and wake me as soon as the guard leaves so we can get started," she wrote.
"Alright, tonight then," I wrote. She nodded her head and lied down on the bed, I turned off the tablet and put it back in her bag and zipped it up.
The rest of the night crawled by as we waited for night to come. Eventually, the scientists left and I waited for the guard to come. He came in, did a half-sweep of the perimeter and then left. I immediately woke Ava. I signaled for her to be quiet and come to the door. She nodded her head and grabbed the tray that was still on the floor. We both held it to the door so it wouldn't spill and gently poured from a safe distance over the lock. The substance managed to stick to the lock and slowly ate it away. After a while, the lock was melted and the door slid open.
We couldn't see much, but we felt my way over to the basin and felt another table on its side next to it we could hide behind if the guard came in. I felt my way over to the computer and found a set of tools nearby. I blindly picked up what felt like a holo-screwdriver, as soon as I picked it up a light flashed from the end. I reached into the basin and pulled out the M-Discs. We aren't letting them take everything, I thought. I used the light to find my way over to the basin and stepped on the edges, careful not to fall, and reached up towards the vent-cover. Panic was starting to set in, the guard would come back any second now. I put the screwdriver to the cover and unscrewed one of the screws. I put it up to the second screw and unscrewed it. I could hear footsteps outside, I immediately dropped to the floor and crouched behind the basin, I dropped the screwdriver and the light flashed off, just as the door opened.
I could hear my heart pounding. I tried to silence it, thinking he could hear it too. He walked over to the table we were hiding behind, he stopped right on the edge from seeing us and then turned around. He exited the room as quickly as he came in.
I breathed a sigh of relief and picked the screwdriver back up. I stepped back onto the edges of the basin and unscrewed the last two screws. The vent-cover dropped to the floor and I moved it aside. I grabbed the edges of the vent and just managed to pull myself up. I laid down and reached my arm out to help Ava up. She reached up and grabbed my arm and I pulled her up.
"Alright, now all we have to do is find a way out of here," I said, catching my breath.
"Yeah, let's just follow the vent shaft, I think I saw an opening outside, we just have to get to that and we can get out of here."
"Got it, it goes this way," Ava pointed where the vent led. We crawled forwards until we hit a turn, we continued along until we hit a T intersection.
"Which way do we go?" I asked Ava.
"I'm feeling left, no wait right, the right." She said. I shrugged my shoulders and turned right. We continued forwards, there were a few intersections along the way, but we kept going through the vent. After a while I could see sunlight, I crawled faster and almost ran to the light. There was an opening, it curved downwards and was a few feet off of the ground, but we'd be able to make it. I vaulted over the opening and fell. I landed on the soft grass, and soon enough Ava came out too.
"Alright, we have to get out of here," I said.
"Yeah, that's obvious, the question is how."
"Ok, I have a plan. We find the nearest vehicle and get to this place I know. It's this remote village out in the middle of nowhere. They'll keep us safe, and they also have the tech to decode these discs," I whispered, leaning towards her.
"Awesome! Let's get to my place, I have a car we can use." she quietly exclaimed.
"Alright, just watch out for the scientists." I said, "Now let's get out of here," I said. There was a street ahead of us, with a bus stop, regular traffic, and some taxis, everything was as usual. We walked over to the bus stop.
"Follow my lead," Ava whispered in my ear. We walked up to the sidewalk and I called a taxi over.
"Hi, could you take us to 514 S. Magnolia Street? Thanks." I opened the door and she got in, I got in myself and closed the door. The driver pulled away from the sidewalk and sped down the street.
While he was driving Ava whispered to me, "So, how out-of-the-way is this place you're taking us?"
"Not too far, but it's far enough that no-one will think to look there, I don't think anyone besides us knows about this place," I whispered back, quietly so the driver didn't hear.
"There you are," the cabbie pulled over to the sidewalk. I handed him a 20 and stepped out.
"Nice little place you got here," I said, noticing the grandeur of her estate.
"Yeah, my parents left it to me," she said. The house was three stories tall and had an insane amount of space, we were only at the front gate, beyond that was a large driveway leading up to a fountain and a front door more expensive than the monthly rent at my old apartment.
"What did your parents do for a living?" I asked, curious as to how they left her this huge estate. She opened the gate with a look towards a camera on the side and we continued.
"Well, my father was the head of a space company, you might've heard of them, Beyond™. He started it years ago," she said like it was no big deal.
"Yeah, I visited them on a trip in college, I had no idea that was your dad!"
"Yeah, that was him. My mother was the CEO of a fashion company, Lunar Apparel™," she said as we continued up to her house.
"Wow, they make some great stuff, I got my last suit from them, really high-quality stuff."
"Yeah, my mom always wanted the best for her customers." We finally reached her garage. "Anyways, let's get going to that village, the faster, the less chance they have of finding us." She looked towards her garage door and the door phased open.
"Alright, which one do you want?" she said. Inside were four of the most expensive cars in the world. There were the newest supercars from Ferrari, Jaguar, BMW, and Audi.
"Which do you think?" I said sarcastically and pointed towards the Ferrari. "I'll take the Ferrari."
"Alright, but I always picked you for a Beamer guy," she walked over to the passenger's side and scanned her eyes in the door. Both doors opened.
"Get in," she said and got in. I sat down and was overjoyed to be able to drive this thing, I had never even gotten near one of these, let alone driven it. After a second, the doors closed, our seatbelts were activated, and the engine started. I turned off autopilot and started the drive, I knew this place by heart.
"Hey, this place isn't exactly on the map, so we'll be going off the roads for a bit," I said, giving Ava a warning.
"Yeah, just get us there." She said. We settled in and buckled down, we had a long drive ahead of us.
We made it to the village. Malakis had released the discs' files without crediting us. But that was fine, we managed to decode the true contents of the disc and knew things they didn't. We eventually returned back to civilization after Malakis had forgotten about us and released the true information to the public. Over years of work, they removed the scientists from power and that is where we sit, Ava and I are currently the heads of Ancient Past United™. The newest company dedicated to uncovering the truth about the past.