Their stuff, as Lincoln called it, turned out to be in place, dry and the technology all functioned normally. Their tents were amazingly still up, and the fire was relit. “Enki went to great lengths to be thorough,” Lincoln commented.
“Yes, thanks,” Lockhart said with a look to the sky. He explained to Boston’s curious face. “It never hurts to be polite.”
“Exactly,” Lincoln agreed. “Thank you. I recall from the stick people what it means to get on the wrong side of the gods.”
“Oh, Lincoln,” Alexis protested and dragged him off. “I was trying to forget about all that.”
Everyone slept well after that. They felt that if they were being watched, they were also being watched over by someone far more capable than a cockroach. When the morning came, they felt refreshed and after some fake coffee, they trooped down to the cooking fires.
Risah was already up working, preparing a luncheon for their coming guest. Lili was there with Nanna and Niudim, but Lili was presently talking with a young man. When Alexis and Boston walked up, Lili introduced Gordon who said he was pleased to meet them and promptly decided he had better get to work. Alexis and Boston both watched Lili as Lili watched Gordon leave.
“He seems very nice,” Alexis said as they went to join the others. Lili only smiled and nodded. Her tongue seemed tied.
Nanna, though, had no trouble talking. “Gordon, Gordon. It is all I hear.”
“Oh?” Boston got nosey. “A boyfriend, or maybe more?” Lili turned a little red.
“No way,” Nanna shook her head. “At least not until Gordon finds the courage to speak to Daddy.”
“Nanna!” Lili scolded her little sister, but Nanna thought it was funny so Lili stomped off to help Aunt Risah with the mush.
“Careful,” Alexis spoke wisely. “It will be your turn one day.” Nanna paused, but shook her head. That day seemed an eternity away. That was the way teenagers always thought.
They all ate the mush. It was not grits or oatmeal or cream of wheat, exactly. It was just mush, helped with a little fruit on top, but not helped much. Lockhart was glad to set his aside when he saw Anenki and Bashte arrive. They were cooing at each other like they were the only two people in the world. Alexis and Boston sighed to see them, but Nanna thought it was gaggy.
“I mean, they are so old,” Nanna said.
“Good morning.” Niudim said and waved like they were far away. Actually, nothing in Eridu was that far away as the morning proved. Anenki gave the travelers the grand tour, as he called it. They were done in an hour and ended up at the irrigation camp.
“Kiluk,” Anenki pointed. “He is the chief of the irrigation project. Presently he and his staff are setting the minimum standards for plowing new fields. As the city grows we will need to cultivate more and more land.”
“Standards?” Katie asked.
“Sure,” Anenki smiled for her and waited for Lincoln to catch up in his notes. “Right now innovation is highly prized. We are all trying new things and looking for ways to improve. But in a generation, standards will become rules and innovation will be harder. Then rules will become regulation as we give birth to inspectors. By three generations, regulations will become traditions, and then innovation will be very difficult.”
“As quick as that?” Lincoln asked.
Anenki nodded. “About a hundred years or so.”
Kiluk waved to the visitors and limped over to talk to a man. Alexis noticed and was more concerned with the limp. “Crippled?”
“Since birth,” Anenki confirmed. “People like Kiluk and Niudim are one of the main reasons I agreed to build the first city. Normally, I don’t interfere like this. It isn’t safe, given all I know about the future. But in this case, I have innovated nothing. I just made it possible.”
“I suppose in the old days the life expectancy for someone like Kiluk would not be good,” Katie suggested.
“Or Niudim, or anyone who got old,” Anenki confirmed. “Now, at least they have a chance – for a few generations anyway.”
“I understand,” Lockhart said, and as they wandered over to the temple, Anenki heard all about the river in the night.
Anenki looked at the temple. Some of the bricks crumbled and several looked more like mush than bricks. “But hey, Duban is still working on the formula. Innovation, remember?”
Gagrena arrived close to three in the afternoon. She came into town seated in a plush chair carried on the shoulders of four rather large men. Seven men followed her carrying spears like a kind of honor guard. Another dozen people came after that, women mostly to attend to Gagrena’s needs.
“Welcome to Eridu.” Bashte had to say it. Anenki wanted to say some other things. To be sure, Gagrena was a beautiful girl who had become a stunning woman, especially with all the pampering. But she had the personality of a snake and she had a bad attitude about everyone. In short, she thought about herself and believed everyone else should think about her, too.
“Anenki.” Gagrena smiled at him. “Put me down, put me down.” As soon as her feet touched she rushed up and threw herself into Anenki’s arms. He gave her a hug before he extracted himself from her bear-like grasp. He drew a line at the kiss. He did not want her kissing even his cheek in a friendly greeting.
“Welcome to Eridu,” Bashte tried again.
“Yes you.” Gagrena acknowledged her at last. “The nursemaid. And how are the children?”
“They are wonderful,” Bashte answered with a friendly smile. “I am sure they would love to see you. Why don’t we visit them. We could spend the afternoon in playtime.”
The look of horror that crossed Gagrena’s face was priceless. Anenki was impressed. Bashte did not have to do anything except tell the truth and be sincere.
“I did not come here to play with the children,” Gagrena responded. “That is your job, isn’t it?”
“Oh it’s not a job. It’s fun.” Bashte stepped up and kissed Anenki, and there was some passion in that kiss. Anenki responded with his whole heart, which made it worse for Gagrena. Then Bashte wandered off slowly toward where the children were playing.
“So, what brings you to Eridu? I thought you and Pak were going to build your own city?”
Gagrena watched Bashte and steamed. She looked at the sky and offered a suggestion. “Can we go inside where it is more private?”
“Of course,” Anenki was gracious. “But your people will have to stay out here.” He shrugged. “We have a nice place for you to spend the night. It is right beside the rooms for the children.” Gagrena paused. “Of course if you would rather stay out here where you could be attended by your people, I will understand.”
Gagrena frowned and waved Anenki to go with her to the door. “Pak is an idiot,” she said. “I have to do everything myself.” Anenki knew that meant she made all the decisions. He well remembered their few years together. He was sure that did not mean she did actual work. She would never lift a finger. “I am going to need some of your chief men for a while – just to teach my own people or my city will never be more than a big village.” Anenki understood. Eridu pioneered most of what was needed to build and maintain a successful city. His only fear was once Gagrena got her hands on his experts, he might never get them back, alive.